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Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission adopts climate, ocean change policy

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Believed to be first to do so in the U.S.

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a Climate and Ocean Change Policy on a unanimous vote Friday, making them the first state fish and wildlife commission in the nation to adopt such a measure.

The policy will be the framework under which the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will evaluate the impacts of climate change on the resources under its stewardship, adopt management practices to safeguard those resources and minimize the impacts to communities that depend on these resources.

It also includes an ambitious goal for ODFW’s operations to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century. 

“I am proud that our agency is out front with this. We’re leaders. It’s causing other states in the U.S. to look at us in developing their own climate change plans,” Commissioner Greg Wolley said 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 Reduce and Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

The policy provides high-level guidance on how climate change will be considered in planning, budgets, investments and policy-making decisions, as required by the executive order.

Throughout the past two years, 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 a first in the U.S. that ODFW is aware of.

“Our fish and wildlife are already feeling the impacts of climate and ocean change. The folks that hunt, fish or depend on healthy populations for their livelihoods are already feeling the impacts,” said ODFW Director Curt Melcher.

“There is a lot we can do to minimize the impact of climate and ocean change in Oregon, and this policy lays out our strategy to do the work needed," Melcher said.

"The good news is that by taking actions to protect fish and wildlife, we also protect clean air and water for all Oregonians and the natural resources that many other industries depend on. We are all in this together,” he added.

During their meeting, the commission also amended regulations for commercial coastal pelagic species (Pacific sardine) to be consistent with federal guidelines. These regulations will continue the commercial fishing closure that began in July 2015 due to a large 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 and on beaver management in Oregon they initiated last month. More discussion about the scope of the review and the individuals involved is planned for the coming months.

Finally, the commission approved ODFW’s proposed 2021-23 Agency Request Budget, with some minor adjustments. They strongly endorsed ODFW’s planned creation 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 (because the department adjusts fees every six years), ODFW said it is pleased to be in a position to delay this and not 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 the 2021 Legislature for final approval.

Article Topic Follows: Wildlife

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