by Carmen Macdonald
Candidates for the Director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife were interviewed publicly today in a Commission meeting. In all honesty, it came across as more of a campaign than a hiring process, but more on that later.
Each candidate was offered 15 minutes total to make their stump speech and provide answers to six questions. For more on what transpired, read Bill Monroe's column on Oregonlive.
I want to focus on what wasn't a part of the interview. Namely, what qualifications these potential candidates might have to lead and operate a public agency of 1,400 people. Because the straight scoop is, ODFW is in a massive crisis.
Consider another Oregonlive article by Kelly House.
. It covers some of the issue with declining participation while offering some data that illustrates how hunters and anglers are declining as a percent of the population.
Michael Finley, Chair of the Fish and WIldlife Commission makes this comment in the article, "Most of the Western states are dealing with these same types of issues."
Let's have a look. Heres a recent study from 2013: Exploring Recent Increases In Hunting and Fishing Participation.
The title alone ought to give you pause.
Tables 1.1 and 1.2 (Pages 15 and 16 of the PDF) look at percentage of growth, or decline. of hunting and fishing license sales from 2005 to 2011. This is just raw license sales. Did the state sell more or less in straight up numbers.
Washington's hunter numbers grew 12%, their angler numbers grew 30%. California's hunter numbers grew 38%, angler numbers were flat (0% change).
In Oregon, hunting participation DECLINED 17%, and angling participation DECLINED 18%. As a state, the results are the 8th WORST in hunting and 6th WORST in fishing.
Houston... we have a problem. To achieve results this bad (in comparison to the rest of the states) you have to work at it.
This problem didn't begin today. The numbers are from 2005 to 2011. This is a systemic issue dating back at least 10 years. Jump another 10 years back and you'll hit the genesis of the decline. Between 1994 and 1998, anglers numbers dropped by 80,000. When El Nino hit in the 1990's, the ocean coho fisheries were closed as well as coho hatcheries. These anglers left over a 4 year period, and the numbers have never recovered.
Then we cut steelhead hatcheries and stream trout programs.
License numbers bumped in the early 2000's on the back of record Columbia River returns and openings of Spring and Summer Chinook that had been closed or severely restricted for the 24 years prior.
But the Columbia is not enough to maintain anglers. The percentage of people that can afford or choose to own a boat that's safe on the big river just isn't that big, certainly not on the state level.
So what's going on? And where is the concern for this by the Governor, the Commission and the hiring process? And maybe more importantly, why is Oregon on this path? While this very political sounding hiring process complete with stump speeches about creating partnerships, funding steams and tapping other users for cash-- all the important people seem okay with the fact that Oregon is sucking wind on providing for the primary constituents of the agency. The paying customers are telling ODFW they don't like the product. They're choosing to spend those dollars elsewhere.
Oregon has been and is a leader in conservation (given they don't manage the actual land or the water).
Who's killing ODFW? A lot of them are quoted in the article by Kelly House. It's the past 20 years of conservation, with a total lack of meaningful results, and the commentators of the type in the article (and employees of ODFW and the Commission), for whom "conservation" will never go far enough. At least not until ODFW is dead and buried, hunting and fishing are gone, and nobody is left to give a rip about it.
This hiring ought to be about reconnecting hunters and anglers to the resource...in a big way.
Worry about the others, who pay nothing, later. What's transpiring in Oregon is tragic.