The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is often viewed by both sportsmen and environmentalists as doing a poor job. Some might argue that because both sides criticize the agency that ODFW is probably doing a fair job.
This might be true; I’ll leave that up to you to decide, but only one side actively funds the agency budget as well as conservation initiatives in Oregon (hunters and anglers – only approximately 8% of the agency budget comes from general tax funds).
With that said, I’d like to point out that the agency is largely forced to do the will of the Governor (currently Gov. Kate Brown). I know this will surprise some of you but’s it’s the truth. Whether a Democrat or Republic is Governor, ODFW leadership serves at the pleasure of the Governor.
The Governor appoints the Director of ODFW as well as the entire body of the ODFW Commission. These two bodies guide all the major decision making within the agency.
Coincidentally, most sportsmen complain that there has been a drastic decline in hunting and fishing opportunities over the past 30 years. The last Republican Governor was Gov. Atiyeh (1979 to 1987). Take that for what it’s worth I’m just laying out the facts, not telling you how to vote.
With that said, here are the 5 worst and 5 best things ODFW is doing for sportsmen.
- Social Media: Showcasing hunting, fishing, and traditional outdoor recreation more on Social Media to all Oregonians.
- How To Workshops: Working to increase traditional outdoor recreation participation through new “how to” workshops and seminars. From fly fishing to pheasant hunting ODFW offers a wide range of workshops to help new sportsmen and women get started. You can see a list of their upcoming classes here: http://www.odfwcalendar.com/.
- Wolf Delisting: Supporting the wolf management plan for wolf delisting in Oregon. Despite threats of legal challenges from extreme environmental groups, the ODFW Commission and ODFW biologist stood by the Oregon Wolf Management Plan and moved forward with delisting the wolf in Oregon.
- Simple Recognition: Recognizing sportsmen dollars matter with a simple “thank you” email following license or tag purchases (pictured to the left).
- Goose Check Stations: Eliminating goose check stations in the NW Goose Permit Zone. I have to admit I was critical of their tactic to achieve this but always welcomed the end goal.
- Lack Of Action: Failing to take actionable and impactful steps to restore our severely depressed ungulate populations. Two prime examples are as follows:
- Taking no action to combat Hair Loss Syndrome (HLS) in blacktail deer after Washington State reported that they lost 50% of some deer populations to the syndrome. Only after the issue had severely impacted the blacktail population did ODFW reduce antlerless tags in some impacted areas.
- Curt Melcher, ODFW Director, is quoted in a video recording (linked below) during a legislative meeting that Oregon has too many cougars, the data proves it, and it cannot be disputed. However, after promising increased administrative removal of cougars in key areas, the agency has failed to act on its promise. You can see the video here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5CkreGu_w0.
- Not Protecting Their Customer Base: Failing to take a meaningful stance to protect Oregonians’ right to choose traditional lead-based ammunition or less available (if at all) and more expensive non-lead bullets for big game.
- An OSU and ODFW survey results found that 37% of respondents’ hunting participation would decline if a lead ammunition ban took place.
- A survey by a private firm found that up to 59% of hunters participation would decline. So there can be no dispute that a lead ammunition ban would harm hunter participation by a large margin.
- Fiscal Growth: Continuing to increase the cost of license and tag fees – while providing nothing in return.
- In 1975 a hunting license only cost $5 which according to an online inflation calculator would be $22.40 today. But, a license in fact costs cost 50% more than it’s inflated value at $32. This doesn’t take into consideration the additional fees that are in place today such as draw applications $8 per species (potentially $80 if you apply for every big game opportunity), a potential non-reporting fee of $25, etc. It goes without saying, the cost is extremely beyond what it was just 40 years ago.
- Poor Relationship Leverage: Despite science-based agency data proving the importance of seral habitat (fire or clear-cut created meadow and forest regrowth habitat) for deer and elk, the agency has failed to impact federal forest management policy. Timber harvest on federal land in Oregon is at historic lows and in some cases has declined by 90% over historic levels. This has resulted in closed canopy forest, which provides very little to no food to ungulates, further exasperating our population woes.
- Lack of Trust: As anyone who has been married or involved in a long-term relationship can attest, trust is one of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship. Hunters and anglers have virtually no trust in the agency we fund. Time and time again the agency has promised increased services when they need an increase in the budget but frequently fail to fulfill their promise. Also, the ODFW Commission and ODFW leadership fail to outwardly recognize the pain points of sportsmen and women, such as significant declines in the deer population, lengthy and confusing hunting regulations, and in many cases offer only lip service in response. When a leader or company has lost the trust of their followers or customers, they’ll typically lose business (like ODFW has in recent years) as their customers choose to frequent another location. Only, in this case, Oregon’s hunters and anglers don’t have another store to frequent, we’re stuck with the broken promises and stories of what Oregon once was, and that’s why this trend continues.
Don’t get me wrong; there are more examples on both sides of this coin – some that you may feel are more important to you than what I have listed here.
I encourage you to share those with the agency – I promise you the other side is letting the agency know what they want!
You can email the ODFW Commission at email@example.com and Director Curt Melcher at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, it’s best to be professional and polite even when expressing your frustrations. I know this can be difficult but no one likes to help someone when they’re getting yelled at.