• 

Perspectives on Department of Fish & Wildlife

Shutterstock.com
Shutterstock.com
Guest writer Ty Stubblefield is field administrator for Oregon Hunters Association, the state’s largest Oregon-based pro-hunting organization. Its mission is to provide abundant huntable wildlife resources for present and future generations, enhancement of wildlife habitat and protection of hunters rights.
Guest writer Ty Stubblefield is field administrator for Oregon Hunters Association, the state’s largest Oregon-based pro-hunting organization. Its mission is to provide abundant huntable wildlife resources for present and future generations, enhancement of wildlife habitat and protection of hunters rights.
Guest writer Quinn Read is wildlife coordinator for Oregon Wild. She lives in Portland and is certified in search and rescue. Recently, she registered for an ODFW course, Introduction to Hunting.
Guest writer Quinn Read is wildlife coordinator for Oregon Wild. She lives in Portland and is certified in search and rescue. Recently, she registered for an ODFW course, Introduction to Hunting.

By Ty Stubblefield

New director should maximize licensing revenue

The management of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has never been in a more compromising position.

ODFW faces a $32 million budget shortfall. Plagued with depressed deer and elk numbers and increasing predator populations, coupled with fewer hunters, it seems the plight couldn’t get much worse.

That’s true unless you consider the severe decline in habitat on much of the state’s federally managed lands, over which ODFW has no control. Now, the agency is looking for a new leader to right this listing ship.

Add pressure from non-hunting groups that recently wrote to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission and the governor asking the new director to reform the agency to be less dependent on license and tag dollars and more “conservation minded.”

Excuse us? Hunting and fishing has been the funding source of conservation since the 1930s. In fact, of ODFW’s 2013-15 projected revenues, $131.9 million comes from Pittman-Robertson funds (a federal excise tax on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment and firearm accessories). Another $103.8 million comes from license and tag fees. That’s $235.7 million of ODFW’s budget — the vast majority — derived from hunters and anglers.

Hunters and anglers are on the forefront of wildlife conservation. Success stories abound, including the return of elk herds in the early 1930s, reintroduction of mountain goats in the 1950s, California bighorn sheep in the same decade and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the 1970s. All these efforts were funded by sportsmen.

The real question is: What should we expect of the new director? First, the new director should be a true hunter and fisherman, whose focus should be fish and wildlife, not politics and people. Too often, politics, rather than sound science, steers the management of the department.

The director should manage the agency within its budgetary means, but that doesn’t have to be the Herculean task it’s often made to resemble.

Taking seriously ODFW’s mandate to optimize wildlife populations will address the need to maximize the agency’s revenue. Build better deer and elk herds, and hunters will beat a path to buy more licenses.

Conversely, if hunters are unsuccessful, eventually they find somewhere else to devote their time and money. The downward trend in hunting license and tag sales, paralleling the decline in deer and elk numbers, leaves little doubt.

A serious look at predator population control is key: more unmanaged predators prowling the landscape = fewer deer and elk available to hunters = reduced license and tag revenue.

ODFW has a choice: restore our big game resources and reestablish the department’s traditional funding base, or become a nongame wildlife agency with a skeleton staff dependent on elusive, unpredictable general funds.

Which choice will the agency make? Its new director will exert considerable influence on that decision, and that’s why the Oregon Hunters Association will work diligently to assure the new director embraces a hunter’s vision of conservation.

Here are some pertinent fiscal facts:

  • 1961: 670,000 hunting and angling licenses sold. Biennial budget from licenses $12.5 million ($7.5 million from Game Commission, $5 million from Fish Commission).
  • 1975: 1,156,000 licenses sold (390,000 hunters and 766,000 anglers). Biennial budget total $40 million (50 percent user fees, 33 percent federal government, 17 percent from state general fund).
  • 2013: 886,000 licenses sold (269,000 hunters and 617,000 anglers). Total revenues $361.2 million (29 percent license fees, 36 percent federal (Pittman-Robertson) funds, 5 percent state general fund, balance from other sources).

Guest writer Ty Stubblefield is field administrator for Oregon Hunters Association, the state’s largest Oregon-based pro-hunting organization. Its mission is to provide abundant huntable wildlife resources for present and future generations, enhancement of wildlife habitat and protection of hunters rights.

----------------------

By Quinn Read

Use business model to work for all Oregonians

As Oregon confronts challenges related to threatened and endangered species, habitat loss and climate change, the importance of strong state fish and wildlife management must not be underestimated. Unfortunately, the agency we entrust to tackle these issues is floundering.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is faced with a $32 million budget shortfall, born from its decades-long dependence on declining hunting and fishing license sales. Left unchecked, ODFW’s unsustainable business model will leave the agency crippled during a potentially critical period for the long-term health of our state’s game and non-game wildlife — including iconic species like the wolverine, sea otter, and condor.

Fortunately, ODFW has an opportunity to reverse this downward trend by hiring an innovative leader — someone with the vision to capture new sources of revenue and the commitment to the agency’s broad conservation mandate.

ODFW exists to protect our state’s fish and wildlife heritage for all of us — and for all the ways we choose to enjoy and appreciate that heritage. Indeed, the agency’s official mission is “to protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations.”

A 2011 national survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that 1.8 million people participated in some sort of wildlife-related recreation in Oregon — hunting, fishing or wildlife watching. Of those, 11 percent hunted, 36 percent fished, and a whopping 81 percent enjoyed watching wildlife. As it turns out, there is a lot of overlap between wildlife watchers, hunters and anglers.

All that activity in 2011 generated $2.7 billion of consumer spending on wildlife recreation within Oregon. Fishing accounted for $641 million; hunting for $239 million. But wildlife-watching alone accounted for $1.7 billion. That’s a lot of money injected into the economy to support our interest in wildlife-related recreation.

These numbers call for a state wildlife agency that fulfills its mandate to conserve both game and non-game species. This is not about politics. This is about dollars and cents. The agency has failed to capitalize on the rapidly growing segment of the population interested in watching wildlife. Instead, ODFW continues to rely on a declining revenue stream. Ignoring a huge user base would not fly in the private sector. Where would Facebook be if it had limited services to its original college-student market?

Hunting and fishing license sales have declined steadily over the past couple of decades — reflecting a national downward trend in participation in these activities. According to ODFW, the agency would need to see a 20 percent increase in license sales to generate enough revenue to avoid budget cuts.

To get back on track, ODFW must adopt a broad-based, diverse funding model. The agency’s traditional funding base — and the activities it supports — are an important component. However, to meet its larger conservation mandate, the agency must seek new sources of revenue. General fund money can help bridge the gap — and fund conservation programs. But for stability in the long run, the agency must adapt its model to its changing constituency.

The new director should be a fish and wildlife scientist willing to hold the agency to a best-available science standard in decision-making. He or she should have the business savvy to adopt a new model addressing the agency’s entire market. Finally, ODFW’s new leader must be committed to fulfilling the agency’s mission to protect both game and non-game fish and wildlife for generations to come.

A whole, stable, sustainable wildlife agency in Oregon benefits all of us — and that’s as it should be.

Guest writer Quinn Read is wildlife coordinator for Oregon Wild. She lives in Portland and is certified in search and rescue. Recently, she registered for an ODFW course, Introduction to Hunting.

Comments

Don Dix

Maybe the ODFW could take a course in profitable real estate trading and save millions upon millions! 'Location, location, location' doesn't mean move 3 times in 10 years!

Web Design & Web Development by LVSYS