Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Candid Thoughts from Tom....

Tom came and met with TVTU at our November - unfortunately, I was unable to attend but many of his thoughts have been shared via the OCTU meetings and dialogue. Below is a very important focus for 2015 - new ODFW Directorship and Budget.

Tom offers insights for the direction Oregon TU will be operating toward. As always - please feel free as members to follow along and provide your input - it is an important part of the organization! Contact either the chapter or the OCTU Officers.

Thanks again for the efforts Tom!

My thoughts on ODFW 2015-2017 proposed budget and agency reform...

License fee increase: a few of you let me know that you didn't agree with OCTU support of ODFW license fee increases. Here are some thoughts on why TU should support the fee increases:

1. It is a small increase in reality. An annual fishing license would-starting in 2016 would go up a few dollars every 2 years until 2022, with final cost at just over 40 dollars. That is a small price for something we can use all year. It is the cost of several flies, a few beers or 3 coffee mochas. As a friend of mine says, it will cost us 12 cents a day, instead of 9 cents a day.

2. The fishing groups and hunting groups - Steelheaders, NSIA, OOC,OHA etc - are opposing the fee increase. It gives TU and other like-minded conservation groups a better in politically with ODFW and Governor's office to support the fee increase. It means ODFW and Governor's staff may listen more to our concerns for more General State Fund money for conservation if they know we support the license fee increase.

3. In order to make the ODFW budget work, there has to be a balance of federal, state and license fee funds. The modest increase in General Fund money ODFW will be asking for will be tough enough to get without a license fee increase. ODFW will not have enough funding for important conservation programs and local fish biologists - who are the backbone to the fisheries programs and conservation efforts.

Holding ODFW to their promises: No one, over the last 20 years, has done a better job of holding ODFW accountable for their conservation mission than TU. We have criticized the agency while also working with them; we feel they know we are a tough but fair organization. Just because we support their license fee increases, it doesn't mean we can't critique ODFW and hold them accountable. If they don't keep their conservation promises, we can oppose future license fee increases.

ODFW reform:

1. Make the top priority of ODFW their conservation mission and not selling licenses. This can be done through good leadership and an increased amount of General Fund money to stabilize ODFW funding.

2. A geniune reduction of hatchery salmon production and more focus on increasing wild salmonid populations. Frankly, this will also help with budget problems as hatcheries are a huge part of ODFW budget. This would mean consolidating current hatchery operations, closing down obsolete and unnecessary hatcheries and finally, a cost analysis of hatchery operations.

3. A genuine effort by ODFW to actually listen to input of stakeholder groups in ODFW advisory group decisions. Right now, we feel ODFW just wants advisory groups to rubber stamp their decisions. A pleasant exception to this would the recent EBAC discussion on proposed 2015-2017 ODFW budget where Deputy Director Debbie Colbert incorporated many stakeholder comments and ideas in final budget proposal. This should be the norm, not the exception.

4. More on the ground district biologists, assistant biologists and conservation staff. They need more staffing to deal with recovery efforts for native wild salmonids and improve their ability to work with volunteers.

5. Select a creative and innovative Director whose first concern is conservation of native fish and wildlife species. Then concentration on having other like minded senior ODFW staff.
6. Continue to push in the future for more general fund money for ODFW and all Oregon natural resource agencies.

I feel 2015 will be, with the budget process and search for new Director, a great opportunity to reform ODFW.

That will be one of TU's priorities for 2015.

Tom Wolf, Executive Director
Terry Turner, Oregon Council Chair
Oregon Council Trout Unlimited