T im Lenihan, a combat veteran and dedicated Northwest Steelheaders member, testified in front of the Senate Veterans Committee on November 20, 2019, to propose a draft bill (LC 55) that would benefit Oregon hunters and anglers by reducing the financial burden of licensing on disadvantaged groups.
Similar to a program already implemented in Washington, the draft bill calls for a program wherein the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife would issue group hunting, angling, and shellfish licenses to qualifying non-profit programs. Group licenses would be granted to organizations providing support to veterans, active service members, underprivileged and at-risk youth, and those that are hospitalized or have disabilities, among others. Currently, participants are required to purchase licenses for hunting and fishing programs themselves.
Joined by Jared Jager, a representative of the veteran hunting non-profit Divide Camp, Lenihan represented both the Association of Northwest Steelheaders and The Fallen Outdoors. “The military teaches us the person to your left or right is more important than yourself. It becomes a life mantra to work together.”
Lenihan’s goal in introducing this bill is to reduce barriers to outdoor recreation for those who need it most. Many are unable to afford licenses required for fish-alongs and other programs, especially those that are not Oregon residents. An out-of-state annual angling license costs $110.50.
This burden inevitably leads to a lack of continued participation as individuals choose to buy just a one-day license or opt out altogether. “In the past 3 years of hosting events, we have no recorded instances where an individual purchased a full year license in order to participate in one of our events,” Lenihan testified. A group license would relieve the financial stress on the individual and encourage more participation beyond a single event.
Lenihan attests to the therapeutic power of cultivating a relationship with nature and the necessity of having viable access to it. “Those who would be best served by the opportunities of a free group license are oftentimes the very individuals experiencing financial hardships and other stressors identified as causes of veteran suicide,” Lenihan said in his testimony to the Veterans Committee. “I have personally experienced several occasions where these events were credited with saving the lives of the individuals.”
Hunting and fishing offer both access to the healing power of outdoor recreation and the opportunity to build connections within the conservation community. The passage of this bill into law would advance Northwest Steelheaders’ vision to provide equitable public access to angling for all Oregon residents.
The bill is currently being revised to include harvest tags as well as licensing to allow for the harvest of managed species. After its final revision, it will be submitted to the full Senate for introduction and review for passage, which is expected to occur in February.