Oklahoma State Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Oklahoma's Wildlife Action Plan is a guide and planning resource that applies a habitat-based approach to conserving the state's 240 priority wildlife species.

The document divides the state into six ecoregions and 22 habitat types. It covers important conservation issues, recommends conservation actions, and identifies potential conservation partners in each region. By focusing on the health of Oklahoma’s natural areas, actions may benefit multiple wildlife species before their populations become more rare and more costly to protect.

Management

Nearly 97 percent of Oklahoma’s landscape is privately owned. A key component for successful wildlife conservation lies in partnerships between landowners and conservation agencies.

Wildlife Highlights

Existing native habitats support locally healthy populations of migrating shorebirds and songbirds, such as Oklahoma’s state bird, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. The eastern forests of Oklahoma support rich communities of songbirds, salamanders and bats. Oklahoma’s rivers support an impressive diversity of fish and freshwater mussels unique to eastern regions of the country. In the prairies of western Oklahoma, globally rare species are found, such as the Texas Horned Lizard, Loggerhead Shrike, Swift Fox and other prairie icons like the Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Long-billed Curlew and Lesser Prairie Chicken.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s Wildlife Action Plan reveals five recurring conservation issues:

Information Gaps

Inadequate information exists in Oklahoma about the historic distributions, acreages or population sizes of most habitats/communities; there is incomplete information regarding the current acreage, condition and distribution of these communities, as well as incomplete information about many of the rare species within them.

Habitat conversions

Large percentages of local prairies, woodlands and bottomland forest landscapes have been converted to crop fields or to pastures of non-native grasses such as Bermuda and tall fescue. In some areas, forests and woodlands of diverse structure and species composition have been converted to even-age forests or pine plantations.

Water degradation and flow alteration

Many aquatic and riparian communities have been altered by changes in flow patterns and diminished water quantity as a result of the construction of impoundments and the clearing / development of riparian zones and flood plains. Additionally, increasing human demand for water, both from within and outside of the state, affect these habitats and the wildlife communities they support.

Fire suppression

A reduction in periodic fires has negatively affected woodlands, prairies and shrublands across the state. Tree densities have greatly increased within woodlands, and prairies and shrublands have experienced a dramatic increase in Eastern Redcedar to the point of invasiveness.

Landowner partnerships and education

Greater incentives and more accurate information are needed to encourage private landowners to restore native communities. Farm Bill programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program have failed to restore native communities and have actually increased the planting of non-native and invasive species. Restoration and enhancement of riparian habitats and wetlands has been a difficult sell with landowners. Landowners recognize the need for increased burning, but are faced with liability concerns. In addition, the biological affects of prescribed burning on rare species is still poorly understood by biologists.

 

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

 

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