The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a brand new Climate and Ocean Change Policy on July 10 on a unanimous vote, making them the very first state fish and wildlife commission in the country to adopt such a measure.
The Policy approved will be the framework under which ODFW will measure the impacts of climate change on the resources under its stewardship, adopt management practices to guard those resources and minimize the impacts to communities that rely on these resources. The Policy also includes an ambitious goal for ODFW’s operations to attain carbon neutrality by mid-century.
“I am proud that our agency is out front with this. We are leaders. It is causing other states in the UNITED STATES to look at us in developing their own climate change plans,” said Commissioner Greg Wolley during the hearing and testimony portion of Friday’s meeting.
The policy aligns the Department with direction from Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-04, Directing State Agencies to Take Actions to cut back and Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The Policy provides advanced level assistance with how climate change will likely be considered in planning, budgets, investments and policy making decisions as required by the Executive Order.
For the past 2 yrs, ODFW staff drafted the current policy and submitted multiple drafts for public review. Staff considered public comments to help shape the policy and conducted multiple listening sessions both in person and virtually to gather feedback. During and in advance of Friday’s meeting, the Commission heard from constituents in support of the policy; many were anxious to see the principles of the Policy implemented by the Commission.
The adoption of a climate change policy by a state fish and wildlife commission is an initial in the U.S. that ODFW is conscious of.
“Our fish and wildlife are already feeling the impacts of climate and ocean change. The people that hunt, fish or depend on healthy populations for their livelihoods are already feeling the impacts,” said Curt Melcher, Director, ODFW.
“There is a whole lot we can do in order to minimize the impact of climate and ocean change in Oregon and this policy lays out our strategy to do the work needed. The good news is that by taking actions to safeguard fish and wildlife, we also protect clean air and water for all Oregonians and also the natural resources that many other industries rely on. We are all in this together,” added Melcher.
During their meeting today, the Commission also amended regulations for commercial coastal pelagic species (Pacific sardine) to be in line with federal guidelines. These regulations will continue the commercial fishing closure that began in July 2015 because of a sizable decline in Pacific sardine biomass, but a few small scale, limited sardine fisheries will continue.
In a discussion of other business, Commissioners further discussed the scope of the review of trap check regulations as well as on beaver management in Oregon they initiated last month. More discussion in regards to the scope of the review and the individuals involved is planned for the coming months.
Eventually, the Commission approved ODFW’s proposed 2021-23 Agency Request Budget with a few minor adjustments. They strongly endorsed ODFW’s planned development of a Habitat Division to have specific responsibility for habitat and strengthen ODFW’s commitment to habitat restoration and improvement.
The budget does not include any fee increases on sport or commercial licenses in this budget cycle. While 2021 would typically be a year to raise fees to take effect in 2022 (since the department adjusts fees every six years), ODFW is pleased to be in a position to delay this rather than request any fee increase of hunters, anglers or commercial fishermen until 2024 at the earliest. The budget will now go to the Governor and then to the 2021 Legislature for final approval.