by Karen Mehall Phillips - Friday, May 6, 2022
Above: The NRA’s peter Churchbourne (center) presented the symbolic NRA check in person to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife’s Communication and Education Senior Specialist Lance Meek (left) and Director J.D. Strong (right).
What state game agency across America wouldn’t benefit by receiving more funding for its crucial wildlife conservation programs? That’s where the NRA came in earlier this month when it presented a check for $122,720 to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), thanks to Oklahoma hunters’ extensive use of NRA’s free Online Hunter Education Course in 2021. The funds can be used by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission to apply for grants through the Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Act—commonly known as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937—that will result in $368,160 in funding coming back to the department.
“Thanks to our partnership with the NRA, more than 4,500 Oklahoma sportsmen and sportswomen took the NRA’s free hunter education course in 2021,” said Lance Meek, Communication and Education Senior Specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, who acknowledged that more than 20,000 students have taken the course since the department began offering it in 2018. “I'd encourage other states to look at offering the NRA course.”
Meek’s suggestion is well taken considering the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which administers the P-R fund through its Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) Division, allows state wildlife agencies to claim a dollar value of the NRA’s free online Hunter Education Course as in-kind match dollars to access federal P-R grants. When the USFWS announced the policy supporting the use of the NRA course in 2019, it was a major win for the NRA and state wildlife agencies, which rely on the P-R dollars administered by the WSFR Division for their fish and wildlife conservation programs. It also is a step forward in supporting states’ hunter recruitment efforts and the national NRA-backed R3 (Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation) movement.
“We are pleased to partner with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and that it has capitalized on this opportunity to provide our free course, and then use the match option to receive Pittman-Robertson funds,” said Peter Churchbourne, director of the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum. “It’s good to see all the hard work come full circle to benefit this agency and the residents of Oklahoma.”
Churchbourne presented the NRA check in person, enjoying the opportunity to make the NRA’s programs and other offerings for hunters as full-service and personal as possible now that we appear to be putting COVID-19 behind us. “We strive to make our products and assistance better for our partners and ultimately our end users,” he shared. “I have found that the best way to do that is to get out and meet the people we are trying to help, face to face. I want our partners to be comfortable with us and see us as experienced professionals that have legitimate expertise that they can count on.”
As the saying goes, some stories are worth repeating. State wildlife agencies work wonders with the funding they receive from hunter-backed conservationists. And the more they receive, whether from individual hunters or through groups like the NRA, the better for legal, regulated hunting and the conservation of America’s renewable wildlife resources and their habitats. No wonder the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a resolution last March, which at the time had resulted in the state collecting more than $191,000 in federal aid match dollars to date.
To take the NRA’s free online Hunter Education Course or to learn how to get it approved for use in your state as 12 other states have done, visit NRAHE.org.
About the NRA and Its Free Online Hunter Education Course
In recognizing the NRA’s commitment to American hunters, it is important to note it was the NRA that in 1949 created the first-ever hunter education program in the United States in conjunction with the state of New York. Seventy-three years later, the free NRA Hunter Education Course, launched in 2017, offers a fresh approach to hunter education. The 15-chapter online sequence features attention-grabbing videos, eye-catching graphics and diagrams, interactive modules, audio recordings and dozens of action photos. For an added benefit, this instruction is available whenever and wherever students have time to access it. The fact it is offered free of charge removes the cost barrier of other available online courses and makes it easier for seasoned hunters to revisit the material. For more information, click here.
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