Anglers, hunters want increased fees
HENRY MILLER, Statesman Journal
February 5, 2003
They say they’ll pay more for licenses to keep state wildlife services afloat.
The surreal nature of the scene wasn’t lost on any of the participants Tuesday.
About 200 people, mostly anglers and hunters, filled the main hearing room and two overflow rooms to plead for the Oregon Legislature raise the the cost of hunting and fishing licenses and tags.
“I’m finding it ridiculous to be sitting here in front of you pleading to increase my fees,” said David Peters of Coos Bay.
He was one of about 50 people to testify in front of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
By the end of the three-hour session, chairman Jeff Kropf, R-Sublimity, was the only member remaining to listen after other members left for other commitments at the scheduled 3:30 p.m. cutoff.
Without exception, all who testified supported the fee increases, citing the potential loss of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife programs and staff members.
The most impassioned contingent was for full operation of the state fish hatchery system.
Closures would cause economic devastation, especially among angler-dependent coastal communities, committee members heard repeatedly.
“If the hatcheries are allowed to close … after about a four-year cycle (when the last hatchery fish return), you no longer would have fishing as we know it today,” said Jerry Dove, the president of Tillamook Anglers.
Dove waved a 4-inch-thick stack of petitions he said held 45,000 signatures in support of keeping hatcheries open with fee increases.
Ben Hathaway, owner of Tillamook Sporting Goods, said an informal poll of fishing license buyers the past year showed 1,126 of 1,127 anglers supported the fee increases if it meant keeping hatcheries.
Looking at the stubs for checks he had written to the department for fishing licenses and tags in 2002, sales brought in $116,000, Hathaway said.
Norm Ritchie, the president of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, said: “The presence of people here and in the other rooms speaks more eloquently than I can.”
“I can assure you, the message came through loud and clear,” he told the crowd in the hearing room and via closed-circuit TV in the overflow rooms.
That voice hasn’t always been heard in the marble halls at the Capitol, several people said.
Kelly Smith of Bend, a former Oregon Hunters Association and Mule Deer Foundation president, said: “The department, in my view, is underfunded. You were hacking away at it in the past.
“They’ve lost a lot of good people.”
Economics also was a central theme.
No fish, no license and tag sales, hatchery advocates said.
Similarly, cuts in wildlife field biologists would mean the department would have to err on the side of conservation, clamping down on tag numbers, others testified.
Even Bruce Taylor, representing the anti-hunting group Defenders of Wildlife, said his organization supports the fishing and hunting license and tag hikes.
“This year, there are no other good options,” he said. “These cuts will come at a tremendous cost … as a short-term fix, it’s the best option we have this year.”
Fish and wildlife officials laid the groundwork, warning the public in a series of nine town hall meetings that with declining taxpayer dollars, and no increase in fees, there would have to be major cuts in hatcheries and field staff, landowner assistance and volunteer programs.
The response was overwhelmingly in support for the fee increases during those meetings. More than 400 people turned out for one of the meetings in Tillamook in support of hatcheries.
A lot of those people were at Tuesday’s hearing talking about the Fish and Wildlife budget crisis.
“Right now, the building’s on fire, and we need to put the fire out,” said Ron Gerber of Florence.
Dollars put into fish and wildlife return money in terms of tourism and the economy, many said.
“For a long time, I’ve said that ODFW fees are a bargain,” said Tom Davis, an avid angler and chairman of the Alsea Watershed Council. “I’d challenge anyone on the committee to show me an agency that’s a better bargain.”
Committee members had warned that given the current political climate, people advocating for the fee increases needed to have a good turnout at Tuesday’s hearing.
The response was impossible to ignore, Kropf said in his closing remarks.
“It’s difficult to pass any fee increase when Measure 28 just failed,” he said. “It puts us in a difficult position to make prudent and common sense business decisions in this environment.”
Another hearing on HB 2260 will be scheduled soon, Kropf said.
Henry Miller can be reached at (503) 399-6725.
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
You can always tell who's in 2nd place by who's whining and crying the most. - Old hockey coach.
Dum spiramus tuebimur
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"In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a brave and scarce man, hated and scorned. When the cause succeeds, however, the timid join him... for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." -Mark Twain
No one asked me about that, but I will pay more if they raise the fees, and so will anyone else that wants to hunt.
Henry Miller is not my friend.