Sunday, May 18, 2008

Just What is ODFW's Mandate?

According to Webster mandate is defined as simply this
An authoritative command; especially : a formal order from a superior court or official to an inferior one
So that tells me a state government agency is ruled by public decree correct? Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, being a public agency, should do the will of the public that trusts them to manage fish and wildlife. Seems pretty simple to me!

Let's take it a bit further by looking at the simple Mission Statement of this public agency
"To protect and enhance Oregon's fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations"
I think the key word here is future.
I do not think for one moment that this mission statement is being followed and here is why.
Under the agencies priorities for 2007-2008 they show their hand plain and simple so even a dumb guy like myself can understand.
Bullet number two in these strategies is this....
Develop strategies for recruiting and retaining hunters, anglers, and wildlife viewers
What are those strategies?
Anyone who has done the ODFW public circuit of meetings knows that this agency is in fiscal trouble and big time.Angler participation in this state is declining at an alarming rate and it just so happens it coincides with the likewise alarming down turn of returning salmon and steelhead into Oregon's rivers.
ODFW recognizes this and the agencies intentions are clear! They use the clever euphemism of "Increased angling opportunities" but if you read between the lines it becomes apparent that ODFW wants more bodies on the river and lakes and will do what it takes to get them there.
They also use the excuse of getting young anglers involved. That is a noble gesture but teaching them to kill trout is not the way to go about it.
In the 2008-2009 angling regulations developmental cycle ODFW asked the public to participate with regulation changes they would like starting in 2009.
I myself sent in several proposals that I felt were biologically sound and were consistent with ODFW's mission statement I listed above.
I knew not all of them would make the final cut but I thought maybe one or two would. I read all of the public proposals and thought the conservation side was very well represented with some very thoughtful public proposals.
I was impressed by the thought put into those proposals that protected wild fish "for future generations"
Never once did I think that almost every publicly submitted conservation proposal would be summarily rejected by the angling review board.
Seems like all the rumors of license sales before conservation are true. Harvest of wild winter steelhead on the North Umpqua is back and, of course, so is a potential harvest of north coast cutthroat trout. Seems like the review board would rather protect invasive and illegally planted warm water fish than native salmonids.
These harvest proposals are still in the public review and comment process and may not get any further than the several public meetings scheduled this month BUT the fact that they made it this far while sensible wild fish management proposals did not is very telling and disturbing.
As I've stated before there are some very talented individuals working for ODFW. Intelligent biologists that really do care about wild salmonid conservation. I've met a few of them and they are a credit to the agency. There also seems to be a fair amount of arrogance too and it seems to be what drives ODFW.
Needless to say the fight for these wild fish is far from over. While some ODFW staffers believe we will just roll over and let them ride rough shod over wild salmon, steelhead and trout populations in Oregon for the sake of increased angling opportunities. I am certain that it will not happen this year or ever! I have faith in the voices of thousands who cared enough to be involved in trying to make ODFW own up to it's mandate.

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