I am a member of the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Restoration & Enhancement Board. A small portion of every commercial and recreational fishing license is set aside to spend on projects approved by the R&E board. This volunteer position has been a wonderful experience and a great way to help direct projects in ways I believe will benefit anglers all over the state. Our meeting last week was in Salem where we had the opportunity to speak with top leadership and get an overview of ODFW’s strategic plan. I know that ODFW has a mixed reputation but I believe they are doing a good job given available resources, their broad mandate, and mixed constituencies. I was also encouraged by the vision they laid out for the future.
ODFW has a varied funding stream but the single biggest source of revenue where they have discretion over spending is from the sale of fishing and hunting licenses. These sales have been dropping for years while the population of Oregon has increased, leading to an agency that has been consistently underfunded relative to their mandate. For example, in 1975 33% of Oregonians purchased fishing licenses and 20% purchased hunting licenses. Currently, those are down to 17% and 10%, respectively.
At the same time, the number of Oregonian’s who recreate outdoors has increased and ODFW has been tasked with management of fish and wildlife for non-hunters and anglers while deriving no revenue from them. In response, ODFW has put together a strategic plan for stewardship of our fish and wildlife in the context of rapidly changing environmental, social, and political climates. I encourage you to take a look at this summary.
One of the strategies for improving funding is to ask the majority of Oregonians who enjoy the outdoors but do not fish or hunt to chip in voluntarily. Survey data shows that we all highly value the natural environment but few understand they are not contributing. Today, fish and wildlife need to be studied and monitored and policies need to be created and enforced that will allow for them to thrive.
To this end, the Oregon legislature has set aside $1M for spending on non-fishing and hunting fish and wildlife management programs contingent on ODFW raising $1M from the public. This effort is just getting started, but I have already made a contribution. Learn more about the Oregon Conservation & Recreation Fund (the fundraising is being managed by the Oregon Wildlife Foundation). If you hike, camp, paddle, float, bike, bird watch, or otherwise enjoy the outdoors then this is for you. $10 from 100,000 of us will get the $1M needed for the match from the legislature. As someone who spends a lot of time outdoors I think wildlife management is worth a lot more than $10.