State Game Wardens Remain Assistant on Cherokee Lands After Hunt, Fishing Pact Expires Dec 31 | national news



OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s first tribal hunting and fishing agreement will expire on December 31.

But state game wardens will still have a role within the boundaries of the Cherokee reservation after January 1, when the tribe begins allowing citizens to hunt and fish on these lands.

The Cherokee Nation and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have a permanent cross-delegation agreement. Under the deal, tribal marshals and state game wardens jointly enforce their respective – and very similar – hunting regulations. It came into effect in August 2020, a month after the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

The Cherokee Nation will issue hunting licenses starting January 1.

When state game wardens cite a Native American hunter, that case is already referred to the Cherokee legal system, said Chad Harsha, Cherokee secretary of natural resources. This process will not change when the tribe initiates its own hunting program, Harsha said.

Hunters who are not Native Americans will remain subject to state hunting laws within the boundaries of the Cherokee Reservation, which spans 14 counties in northeast Oklahoma.

Questions about law enforcement and the state’s role in it are among many questions that have surfaced over the week since Chief Cherokee Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced that the tribe would begin to allow citizens to hunt and fish on their reserve.

The cross-delegation agreement is separate from the Hunting and Fishing Pact and will remain in effect after the pact expires, confirmed Micah Holmes, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Hoskin signed an executive order on Monday that will allow Harsha to regulate the rules of hunting and fishing. The rules closely mirror state standards, so the specific details of what and when people can hunt will not change for Cherokee hunters and fishermen, Harsha said.

What will change is how licensing works, one of the two main questions Harsha has received. Cherokee citizens are automatically granted hunting and fishing licenses on the reserve and can provide tribal identification as proof.

The other common question is whether hunters should purchase game tags in advance. They don’t, Harsha said, but hunters must report killings through the tribe’s online portal.

The tribe’s hunting and fishing rules closely mirror those of the state, as they have worked side by side for years. The Cherokee Nation and the state’s Department of Wildlife Conservation signed an agreement in 2016 that led to shared wildlife management standards, among other common conservation goals.

This pact followed a separate agreement on hunting and fishing in 2015. The Cherokee Nation has agreed to purchase at least 150,000 state hunting licenses to issue to its citizens, as well as to pay annual administrative fees. In return, the state sold the licenses for $ 2 apiece. The formula boosted sales of state licenses, which helped increase federal funding.

Tribal and state wildlife management officials have worked together to secure federal grants and achieve other goals, Harsha said.

But talks at the highest levels of government have stalled after the McGirt Supreme Court ruling, which resulted in the state losing jurisdiction over crimes involving Native Americans on six Oklahoma reservations. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt is seeking to overturn the decision.

The hunting and fishing dispute has become the latest example of latent hostility.

The Cherokee rulers decided to begin regulating and enforcing their own hunting rights after learning that Stitt would not renew the current terms of the state-tribal pact.

The Choctaw Nation had a similar agreement with the state, which was also due to expire on December 31. Choctaw leaders plan to begin issuing permits for citizens to hunt and fish on tribal or personal property on the tribal reservation in southeast Oklahoma.

Harsha said the Cherokee leaders had had preliminary discussions on entering into a reciprocal agreement with the Choctaw Nation. “It’s a bit early to define what that would look like,” he said. “We share similar goals.



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