By Betsy Emery, Advocacy and Campaign Manager
T he 2021 Oregon legislative session has officially ended and overall, Northwest Steelheaders was largely successful in securing the key bills and amendments we wanted to get through in a session largely dominated by COVID-19 and wildfire relief. We negotiated an amendment to the Columbia River endorsement bill, legally tying the fee to a requirement that ODFW continue to stick to their agreement to keep non-tribal commercial gill nets off the lower Columbia River and publish an annual accounting of what ODFW used the endorsement funding for. Also, after three long years, Board members Tim Lenihan and Bob Oleson got our bill to enhance fishing access for veteran’s angling programs signed into law. We also secured amendments to require weirs on private property are constructed from natural materials and ensured that material from ditch maintenance cannot be dumped into undisturbed wetlands. We also worked closely with the Sportsmen's Caucus of legislators to strengthen the Conservation and Recreation Fund, secure funding for stream restoration and fish screening, and expand the wildlife inspection station program.
Unfortunately, some of the bills we advocated for throughout the session were not signed into law, including bills to establish an independent science review board, update the structure of the Marine Advisory Board, and allow ODFW to reduce angling fees to increase accessibility. We will continue to work with legislators and other organizations to refine and reintroduce these important bills in the next legislative session.
We are also happy to report that ODFW’s 2021 - 2023 biennium budget includes a number items of interest for the fishing community. The Joint Ways and Means Natural Resources Committee included funding to support multiple positions related to complex water basin planning efforts in the Willamette, Klamath, and other river basins. They also included funding for 5 field biologist positions, including one in the Tillamook region and directed the Department to purchase 4,600 acres of the Minam Property in northeast Oregon.
The legislature is expected to have a special session this fall to make budget adjustments. We plan to work with ODFW to obtain necessary funding to reconstruct hatcheries and increase fish production related to Oregon’s wildfire seasons.
We worked extensively with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and a number of state legislators to help us achieve our goals with these bills, including Senators Dembrow (D-Portland), Girod (R-Stayton), Kennemer (R-Canby), Manning (D-Eugene), Patterson (D-Salem), Thomsen (R-Hood River), and Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) as well as Representatives Meek (D-Clackamas County), Brock Smith (R-Port Orford), Helm (D-Washington County), Lewis (R-Silverton), Marsh (D-Southern Jackson County), Reardon (D-Happy Valley), Wilde (D-Central Lane and Linn Counties), and Witt (D-Clatskanie).
If one of your local legislators is on this list, please thank them for their interest in advancing fish and angler friendly legislation and if your legislators are not on this list, you may want to work with them to help them be a better advocate for our interests.