Game wardens speak out against new bills

Posted at 10:29 PM, Mar 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-09 07:46:11-05

Newly proposed bills in Oklahoma are angering game wardens and law enforcement, who say the new laws will affect their jobs that protect citizens and wildlife. 

Four new bills in the House and Senate could change the way game wardens and law enforcement enter private property. 

If an official sees a “No Trespassing” sign, the new law would state this line can only be crossed with probable cause. 

"There's people in the world that are bad, so we need somebody to watch over those people that are bad," says landowner Mike Cooper.

Cooper says he relies on the game warden and law enforcement to make sure his property and livestock are protected. 

The Oklahoma State Game Warden Association says the new bills will deny them access to private property. 

"95 percent of all the land in Oklahoma, where wildlife can be found, is private property,” says the association’s president, Anthony Clark. “If we can't go on the private property, which means we can only be limited to the public property. We can't help the landowners, we can't help the wildlife" 

Clark says these bills won’t allow him to respond to people or animals in distress on private property. This leaves them to fend for themselves. 

Landowners seem to agree. 

"You get these big land owners. They'll have hunting clubs come in, and they'll kill all of our game and take them out. There won't be any regulations on our game, we have to have regulations on our game," says Cooper.

Senator Nathan Dahm says this just isn't true.

He says the new legislation only denies game wardens access who use the sound of a gunshot as a cause to investigate. 

"All the bill actually says is they cannot use the discharge of a firearm as the sole suspicion or reason that they are entering the private property," says Sen. Dahm.

Sen. Dahm says the warden association is misinterpreting the bills. He says game wardens and law enforcement can enter private property if they see an animal or person is in harm’s way. 

These bills, if passed, would be effective November 1.

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