Oregon FWC Supports Park Fees at State Wildlife Areas

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The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission indicated support for an expanded parking fee program at state wildlife areas, but asked ODFW staff to make some minor adjustments to the rule language before making a final decision at its next meeting.

ODFW staff had proposed a three-year rollout of a plan to expand the parking fee currently in place at Sauvie Island to include other popular wildlife areas.

The goal of the program is to increase the contribution of non-hunters toward maintaining infrastructure and enhancing wildlife habitat at the wildlife areas. If adopted at the Jan. 7, 2011 Commission meeting in Salem, the program requiring either a $7 daily parking permit or a $22 annual permit would be phased in on the following schedule:

  • Jan. 1, 2012: Denman, E.E. Wilson, Ladd Marsh, Summer Lake (and continuing at Sauvie Island, where fees are already in place)
  • Jan. 1, 2013: Klamath, Fern Ridge, White River, Phillip W. Schneider
  • Jan. 1, 2014: Elkhorn, Columbia Basin, Jewell Meadows

The parking permit revenue would be used to improve habitat and infrastructure, and to enhance wildlife viewing opportunities at wildlife areas. Currently, operation and maintenance of the areas is funded by federal excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition and hunting license fees.

A free annual parking permit would be included with any annual hunting or combination license or Sport Pac. The free parking permit would not be included with fishing licenses.

In other business, the Commission approved a sub-bag limit for cabezon within the daily recreational marine bag limit. Currently, anglers can keep seven rockfish, greenling, Pacific cod, skates or cabezon in any combination. Beginning in 2011, anglers would be limited to one cabezon in the daily bag limit from April 1 through Sept. 30. In recent years, cabezon retention has been closed early because harvest quotas were met. The one fish sub-bag limit should help extend the cabezon retention season and reduce early closures.

The Commission also approved two measures to help protect populations of Pacific eulachon, a species of smelt recently listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. The newly adopted regulations set minimum standards for bycatch reduction devices in the pink shrimp trawl industry and permanently close the commercial smelt fisheries on the Sandy and Umpqua rivers.

New rules were adopted that will allow commercial fish buyers to develop the conversion factors necessary to land glazed fish. Glazing is process by which fish are coated with ice on board the fishing vessel. Currently, commercial fish buyers must report the “round” weight (weight before any processing) of all fish received.

The Commission adopted amendments to the administrative rules governing the collection of eggs at the department’s fish hatcheries. Hatcheries routinely collect more eggs and raise more fish than will be needed in order to allow for losses due to disease or other factors. The new rules formalize ODFW policies that minimize the number of surplus eggs and fish.

The Commission re-appointed two members to the Fish Restoration and Enhancement Board. Lonnie Johnson of Grants Pass will continue to represent sport fishing interests and Gary Soderstrom of Clatskanie will represent the gillnet industry. Both will serve four-year terms that begin immediately.

Eighteen projects proposed by the Restoration and Enhancement Board were approved by the Commission. The total of $463,393 will be used to improve hatcheries, develop education materials and restore fish habitat.

In addition to the R&E projects, Commission also approved nine projects totaling $904,403 proposed by the Access and Habitat Board to expand public hunting access to private land or improve wildlife habitat.

Finally, ODFW staff briefed the Commission on the Draft Upper Willamette River Conservation and Recovery Plan for Chinook Salmon and Steelhead, a plan to restore salmon and steelhead populations in the Upper Willamette Basin. The plan covers sub-basins from the Clackamas River to the Middle Fork Willamette River above Willamette Falls, and describes a process for restoring salmon and steelhead populations currently listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The plan serves a dual purpose as both a component of the federal ESA recovery plan and as a complete state conservation plan.

The Commission will be asked to adopt a final version of the plan in early 2011.

The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. It meets monthly. The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2011 in Salem.