Update: June 18th 2023
Efforts to advance House Bill 3086, a piece of legislation focused on Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) commission reform, are in a critical phase as the 2023 legislative session draws to a close. The bill must leave the House by Tuesday to maintain any hope of passing before the session ends on June 25. Crucial steps include approval by the House Committee on Rules, followed by approval on the House floor, which would then propel the bill to the Senate.
In the Senate, the bill would have to navigate through a Senate committee before reaching the Senate floor for final approval before the session's conclusion. Opposition, primarily from environmental organizations who are contacting legislators to vote against HB 3086, presents a significant hurdle. Advocates of the bill urge supporters to counter these actions by voicing their support and lobbying the House Committee on Rules, the Speaker of the House, and Senators.
Regardless of the bill's ultimate fate in this session, ensuring its passage through the House is a strategic imperative. A successful, bipartisan vote on the House floor in 2023 would strengthen the bill's standing should it need to be reintroduced in the 2024 legislative session. The focus remains on rallying support and ensuring key players in both the House and Senate understand the importance of the bill's passage.
The Bill - HB3086
Following the 2020 census, Oregon was granted an additional congressional seat. This requires a revision to the current Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, which previously drew its commissioners from each of the five districts and two at large members. This is an opportunity to restructure the Commission based on regional representation instead of aligning it based on population.
Regional representation based on the five river basin management areas provides a more equitable and diverse representation of the state. The other two commissioners would be appointed at large, one from each side of the Cascades. Regional representation has precedent with the Oregon Water Resources Commission and has provided equitable advocacy regarding the imperative issues surrounding water policy. Realigning the Fish and Wildlife Commission would do the same when applied to wildlife and habitat management policies.
Amy Patrick of the Oregon Hunters Association supports this approach: “A regional representation model ensures that all of Oregon’s natural resources, wildlife, and habitat needs are included in a truly diverse and equitable Commission structure. This ensures the best management decisions for Oregon’s wildlife, habitat, and the public at large.”
The qualifications of commissioners need to be a continuing concern. A background in natural resources, as well as being appointed by the governor, and confirmed by the Senate all ensure that varied interests and stakeholders are the make up of Oregon’s commissioners. Environmental groups want the current statute to remain in place, keeping the decision making power centralized in population areas that have far less interaction with regional issues.
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