Other views: Legislation offers chance to enjoy diverse array of fish, wildlife

Other views: Legislation offers chance to enjoy diverse array of fish, wildlife


By:  Danielle Moser and Mike Totey

Wildlife conservation efforts across the United States are at a critical point. More than one-third of American species are at-risk of extinction and in need of proactive recovery.

The Oregon Conservation Strategy, developed with the best available science, identifies 294 at-risk Oregon species and provides recommendations on how best to meet each species’ needs. However, Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is woefully underfunded to adequately implement the Conservation Strategy.

A 2015 task force created by the Oregon Legislature found that to fulfill its statutory mission, ODFW is in need of nearly $50 million per year in additional revenue. As a changing climate continues to place pressure on Oregon’s habitats and wildlife, now more than ever, investments in conservation must rise to meet the need.

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Fortunately, on April 7, the United States Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, of which Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is a member, moved forward legislation that will greatly assist in meeting ODFW’s funding need. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is a bipartisan bill that would allocate $1.3 billion per year to state fish and wildlife agencies and Native American tribes, providing Oregon with nearly $25 million per year to implement the work identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy.

If the legislation passes, funding will go towards proactive conservation programs, aiding wildlife populations before they become threatened or endangered, while also helping to recover those that already are.

For decades, conservation efforts have proven to be incredibly effective at restoring species, some of which were once on the brink of extinction. Today, we face a new wildlife crisis; one in which the magnitude of the solution must match the magnitude of the challenge.

Mary Wahl, chair of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission agrees: “Oregon has a strong history of protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and the lands and waters that support them. This new funding opportunity sets the stage for addressing key conservation issues of the 21st century, especially the impacts of the changing climate and ocean on Oregon’s ecosystems.”

By prioritizing passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, this Congress will ensure that our fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation traditions will endure for the benefit of future generations.

Failure to fund these conservation efforts will not only endanger Oregon’s at-risk species, but also threaten the many Oregonians employed by the outdoor recreation industry and the communities that rely on them. Without healthy habitats and thriving species, outdoor enthusiasts would not be able to fuel this important industry. Additionally, by investing in proactive conservation, we can avoid putting more species on the path toward extinction.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act represents an historic opportunity to simultaneously benefit wildlife, conservation, sportsmen and women, the economy and taxpayers. The importance of this bill cannot be overstated.

Curt Melcher, director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says: “From my perspective, passing this bill would be the most significant moment in fish and wildlife conservation in the United States this century. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would allow us to fully implement the Oregon Conservation Strategy and truly begin to address species conservation proactively instead of the reactive, emergency approach.”

After several years of being stalled in Congress, this legislation is now closer than ever to being a reality. We thank Merkley for voting in favor of the legislation in committee and urge the rest of our Congressional delegation to support this high priority legislation and in doing so, ensure present and future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the diverse array of fish and wildlife that call Oregon home.