By MARK FREEMAN
State Rep. Sal Esquivel says he’s softening his proposed requirement that all members of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission be at least decade-long hunters or anglers, saying now that most but not all the commissioners should hunt or fish.
Esquivel, R-Medford, said he has amended his House Bill 3437 to require that five of the seven commissioners must have held an angling, hunting, shellfish or commercial fishing license over the previous five years before their appointment.
The original bill would have required all commission appointees to have held one of those licenses for the previous 10 years.
But after a hearing last week in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, Esquivel said bird-watchers and others who enjoy but don’t consume the state’s fish and wildlife resources should have a voice — albeit a minority one — on the commission that sets fish and wildlife policies and oversees ODFW.
“The majority of that board still should be people who hunt and fish,” Esquivel says. “Who would be better to govern hunting and fishing besides people who hunt and fish?”
Under the bill’s original language, only Medford attorney Bob Webber and Laura Anderson would have met the threshold, ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said.
Webber is a long-time hunter and a former Oregon Hunters Association president and board member now living in Port Orford, but his law practice is centered in Medford.
Anderson’s business, Local Ocean from Newport, has had an ODFW fish wholesaler’s license for more than a decade, so she would have qualified under the original bill.
If the amended bill passes, Esquivel said, the fish and wildlife commission would mirror other state commissions, such as those that oversee attorneys, doctors and dentists and are run by members of those professions, he said.
Former commissioner Dan Edge said restricting representation of non-hunters and non-anglers on the commission “does not seem to fit the spirit of involving citizens in their government.”
The commission deals with many non-consumptive fish and wildlife issues, such as threatened and endangered species, habitat protection, invasive species curtailment and management of other fish and wildlife never meant for targeting with rods or guns.
“You can imagine a number of potential good appointees who never hunted or fished in their lives,” Edge said.
The bill had its first hearing Thursday. It is scheduled to be discussed by the committee during a work session April 16 in Salem.
People interested in serving on commissions apply when seats are open. The governor appoints potential commissioners, who then must be confirmed by the Oregon Senate.
Commission terms generally are for four years, with one re-appointment allowed. Some commissioners, however, can serve longer while their replacements are sought.
If the bill is adopted, it would apply to future appointees and not sitting commissioners.
Esquivel said he filed the bill after hearing constituents complain that too many of the commissioners who set hunting and fishing rules are not hunters or anglers.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.