State Advocacy Issues
Of the four directional themes that drive
the policy efforts of the Association, it is
the monitoring of legislative issues that may
adversely compromise the organization’s mission
that demands the greatest attention and focus
by staff, the Board Directors and its retained
Legislative Advocate to assess its impact on
The summary below was filed in July 1, 2009 by the Association’s retained Legislative Advocate, Bob Oleson and assesses some of the successes and challenges faced by the organization during the 2009 State Legislative session and the issues that commanded close attention.
“The 2009 legislative session was a tough six months and dominated with unprecedented budget and revenue problems. Relatively few of the regular bills costing money were allowed to advance due to the $4 billion “hole” in the state budget. During most of the session, a wrestling match ensued between the Governor and legislative leaders on how to maintain existing service levels. Most of the bills with a price tag that survived were watered down or supported with new fees in order to protect the state’s limited general fund dollars. The political stage was often dominated by well heeled corporate interests fighting with demanding union bosses and others. One of my observations was that average citizens and nonprofit public spirited organizations like the Northwest Steelheaders had to shout louder than ever to be heard by legislators and bureaucrats.
Fiscally distracted state leaders declined opportunities to move toward a long term solution of salmon allocation conflicts on the lower Columbia (via either SAFE or the Melcher plan). During a recession they found it easy to ignore our position that action is needed now to address the destructive practices of the lower Columbia River gillnetting industry. This situation spotlighted the importance of anglers strengthening their policy role and political voice and accelerating efforts to unify the sports fishing community to more effectively speak in unison on our top priority issues.
Despite difficult conditions and some examples of legislative inaction, it can be confidently reported that on many policy issues, the angling and conservation community faired well. Cooperating with other politically effective organizations such as Trout Unlimited, the Association worked hard throughout the legislative session to influence issues important to our members and countless other conservationists. Along with various money measures, our agenda at the legislature was dominated by a wide range of environmental concerns, outdoor education needs, wildlife enforcement, protection of stream/marine waters, hatchery reform and improving ODFW services.
The following are examples of the bills important to anglers this session:
Restricting poaching and controlling
invasive species—This category of
legislation represented some major changes and
the Association was consistently involved on
commenting on various bills related to this
issue such as HB 3089 which increased penalties
for serious fish and wildlife crimes and
provides the state with additional enforcement
tools and SB 571 which greatly increases the
penalties for intentionally releasing
non-native bait fish into bodies of water as
what occurred in the invasive fish disaster
that in Diamond Lake several years ago.
Other related bills that the Association
worked on included HB 2220 which authorizes
portable inspection stations aimed at
preventing the introduction of snail and mussel
type species into Oregon’s waterways.
Legislative leaders and river keeper groups
opted to fund this program by placing a special
fee on most boats. Another related bill,
HB 2020 set up an earmarked fund to respond
quickly to outbreaks, potentially saving
taxpayers millions of dollars over the long
run. The impressive gains made this past year
represent the beginning of a long term effort
to protect our fish and natural
No child left inside—HB 2544 is an important new environmental literacy program and the Association was centrally involved in advancing it through the legislature. This measure lines up Oregon to receive major federal assistance in better preparing Oregon students for the conservation and natural resource challenges of the future. Moreover, this is a good example of the Association being able to work closely with the leaders of Oregon’s increasingly powerful environmental community.
Marine Reserves—HB 3013 is the response to plans by a private foundation and the state administration to initiate large reserves off the Oregon coast. This law will apply important public oversight and evaluation processes to this new process and directs ODFW to develop a work plan for two relatively small reserves. Coastal legislators are saying it is also important that the new law codifies the intent to adequately research the potential of any additional sites and to have any such sites collaboratively designed.
Rivers and water—HB 3298 will protect the Metolius River for future generations by declaring the area on of “critical state concern” and will allow only a very limited amount of new development in the basin. SB 76 is the Klamath River basin agreement that is intended to facilitate removal of antiquated dams. The Association was also actively involved in the effort to keep in committee the OASIS proposal (HB 2406) for sucking large amounts of water out of the Columbia when the water would be needed most by migrating salmon. The omnibus water bill of the session is HB 3369 and the bill survived great debate among numerous parties—it does a number of things: Helps to develop new water projects, establishes strong environmental standards, creates a long term vision for water management, and encourages collaboration among stakeholders; generally a good mega accomplishment of the session but we should continue to closely monitor future implementation phases because of the component dealing with Umatilla Aquifer Recharge.
Hatcheries and hatching receive attention—HB 3489 instructs ODFW to develop a plan to reform operation of its coastal hatcheries (i.e., infrastructure enhancements, production and disease management strategies, effluent management, prioritization of deferred maintenance, etc). SB 545 encourages ODFW via a study to move toward pathogen free hatcheries and to assess the benefits of incorporating Desert Springs Trout Farm into our state’s trout production program. Even though this bill was passed at very end of session, the Governor chose to veto the measure and indicates he will try to pursue its objectives without a new law. SB 472 involves the use and evaluation of hatch boxes in select Rogue River basin streams (this and the previous bill was part of the final political deals that brought the legislature to a close). It should also be mentioned that throughout the session anglers’ advocates had discussions with legislative leaders about hatchery problems and they agreed to make an additional appropriation for maintenance via one of the final budget bills. (From my perspective some environmental activists are generally too critical of fish hatcheries and related programs—a better way to pursue the public interest would be to significantly improve the maintenance and funding of these important state activities.)
Comments on ODFW budget and fees: The Association was one of the very few stakeholder groups included in the important legislative work group that successfully worked to prioritize programs, clarify and squeeze down proposed fee increases, and then to obtain written assurances from the department on providing specific additional angling services for the new biennium. In the future we should continue to help lead the angling community in assisting state officials (including the dedicated ODFW senior staff) to further advance broad, fair and allow for transparent budget/fee proposals.
Special Attention: As the legislature moves to annual sessions, the following bills that did not pass should be considered as incomplete works in progress that will receive future attention:
-SB 869 increasing attention and direction to creating more trophy fishing opportunities.
-HB 3443 inserting big wood debris in certain streams in order to improve fish habitat—and doing it in a coordinated manner in a more carefully crafted proposal.
-HB 3323 on a limited entry fishing guide program.
-HB 3249 is important because it calls attention to the importance of having a well balanced Board of Forestry and features the issue of anchoring adequate conservations areas within our state forests.
-HB 2015 serves as the vehicle for discussing needed public and wildlife protection against LNG projects.
-SB 80 involving state level solutions for global warming pollution.
political note: The angling
community made very good progress on a number
of legislative fronts this past session and yet
in the public policy arena there is a lot of
heavy lifting still confronting us.
Progressive Democrats dominated the leading
positions within 09 majority caucuses and
legislative committees but had essentially no
additional funding for the new programs and
services desired by constituent groups. The
situation caused more frustration as great
effort went into controlling the cost of state
government. Moreover, our funding requests
competed with such things as welfare programs
and transportation infrastructure needs.
Republicans had influence beyond their numbers
this session due to their willingness to make
deals and their past experience with budget
cutting strategies. Also more apparent than
ever is the need for increased angler
involvement with state level candidates. About
one third of the ninety members of the
legislature can be regarded as our good friends
but the ones working on natural resources
issues/committees were once again in the best
position to help us on an ongoing basis. Here
is my list of the top legislative champions for
anglers in 2009 and it is hoped that you will
assist in moving other legislators onto such
Representative Brian Clem of Salem and Representative Wayne Krieger of Gold Beach, Senator Jackie Dingfelder of East Portland and Senator Frank Morse of Corvallis.”