We have to beg to differ with our state senator.
Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, supported a bill that makes it the job of the governor, not the Fish and Wildlife Commission, to appoint the director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The bill passed the Senate this week by a vote of 21-8.
Im comfortable that this is the way for us to get control of an agency that is in a free fall, Ferrioli said, adding that state senate confirmation of the governors appointee will be required.
We agree with Ferrioli that the agency has its work cut out for it.
We dont agree, however, that the wisdom of this or future governors can prevail over that of the wildlife commission in selection of a director.
The seven-member commission must have at least one member from each of Oregons five congressional districts, and at least one member from west of the Cascade and one from east of the Cascades.
While we would like to see more representation for the Second District and Eastern Oregon easily the vastest tract of wildlife habitat in the state our role on the commission is secure, by law.
Our role in advising this or a future governor, however, is far more uncertain.
Consider John Kitzhaber, a popular Oregon governor although not always around these parts. Kitzhabers strength is the I-5 corridor and the Portland Metropolitan Area, the population center of the state that he and others may be counting on to propel him to the U.S. Senate in lieu of Sen. Gordon Smith.
That makes his considerations about ODFW more likely to lean towards urban ignorance instead of the wildlife commissions practical knowledge and experience.
Consider the decline in the number of hunters statewide.
Hunting has been a skill and tradition handed down from generation to generation.
But over the past few generations, the shift from a rural to an urban population has seen a concurrent decline in the number of hunters. One son quits hunting, and two generations later a dozen potential hunters have never leveled a rifle or put in for a tag.
And fewer hunters means fewer tags and smaller revenues for ODFW.
Meanwhile, the agency has been charged with a role in salmon recovery and strapped with more complicated game management issues by a ban on bait and hounds in the hunting of bears and cougars.
That costs the department money money which cannot be expected to come from hunting and fishing fees since both efforts reduce the number of opportunities for cost recovery through tags.
It also subjects the agency to ridiculous criticisms by an ill-informed public. Consider the shocking video tape of hatchery workers killing hatchery salmon as they return to spawn.
That is a sound practice under the goals of salmon recovery, which value wild salmon stock over hatchery. The streams need the biological material from dead salmon bodies, but the wild salmon dont need the hatchery salmons less-than-diverse genetics.
But the department has been branded as butchers largely by that same urban population who brought an end to hounding cougars and bears and who would carry more weight in the selection of the ODFW director under the legislation Ferrioli supported than their rural neighbors.
We cant agree with Ferrioli and others who supported this bill, like Sen. Ken Messerle, R-Coos Bay.
Its important that the governor, as the CEO of the state of Oregon, should have the authority to hold this agency accountable, he said.
Thats the right model, but the wrong subjects. The ODFW director is the CEO of ODFW; the wildlife commission, the board of directors charged with keeping the department on track.
Ferrioli, Messerle and others want to see more accountability in ODFW. As senators, they can already demand that.
The governor can, too. He appoints the wildlife commission.
For sure, the department needs to better market hunting programs to non-hunters in hopes of growing its future revenues, and be held accountable by the commission and the legislature.
But this bill is the wrong medicine for that illness.
Rep. Greg Smith and others in the House should vote No and send this bill packing.