OHA Legislative Report
OHA Lobbyist Al Elkins

2014 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

            The short even-year legislative session, which started in February and ended in early March, brought forth a number of issues for OHA to address, but as has been the case since OHA first maintained a year-round lobbying presence in the state Capitol, no bills we opposed were passed.

            HB 4075, if passed, would have allowed legally blind hunters to use laser scopes and sights. The bill was assigned to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, which held a hearing on the bill. During the hearing, committee members raised many concerns about the bill, including the issue of “fair chase” in relation to the “use of high-tech add ons.” After much discussion, the bill died in committee.

            The universal background check gun bill also failed. After much discussion and a great deal of maneuvering, the bill died in the Senate Rules Committee. We are certain that a bill similar to this one will be back in the 2015 Legislative Session.

ODFW Responds to OHA on Cougar Plan Review Request

            In January of this year, the state board of the Oregon Hunters Association sent a letter to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission asking them to review the Cougar Management Plan. In the letter, the OHA board asked questions ranging from what population of cougars can Oregon realistically support to whether the current zones are an adequate representation of the management challenges and predation control requirements within them.

            In March, ODFW sent a response to the request for a cougar management plan review. Here are some of the highlights of that response from ODFW:

            • The Cougar plan was last updated by the Commission in 2006 and we currently are looking to conduct a review of the Cougar Plan in 2016.

            • Secondly, as adopted in rule by the Commission, we are required to open and revise our Wolf Conservation and Management Plan in 2015. We are also anticipating that the Commission may be considering delisting wolves in 2015. These are two separate and distinct processes that will require full staff attention and it would be difficult to undertake both of these and a revision of the Cougar Plan all in the same year.

            In closing, the ODFW letter to the OHA board observes, “Your letter does raise appropriate questions about cougar management and are all things that should be considered in the next revision of the Cougar Management Plan.”

Feral Horse Lawsuit Filed

            The Nevada Association of Counties (NAC) has filed a lawsuit against the BLM over the management of feral horses on BLM land. The BLM is responsible for over 40,000 feral horses on the range in 10 Western states where they compete with cattle and wildlife for diminishing supplies of food and water.

            According to the NAC, the BLM is not enforcing a portion of the current federal law that requires BLM to manage feral horses in a way that maintains ecological balance of all species. NAC goes on to point out that the severe drought has brought on huge impacts on rangeland. We will keep you posted on the advancement of this lawsuit as it journeys through the courts.

OHA Board Adopts Wildlife Work Plan

            The OHA State Board of Directors at its March meeting in Salem adopted a “Wildlife Committee Work Plan” for 2014. This plan includes goals that the board will be addressing and completing during the course of the year. These goals include:

*          Pursue options to address predator control and management by exploring ways to allow for more harvest opportunities.

*          Pursue the review of the Cougar Management Plan.

*          Evaluate and make proposed changes to the ODFW license package proposal.

*          Pursue options to disallow antlerless hunts where populations are significantly below management objectives.

*          Review and comment on proposed 2015 hunting regulations.

*          Evaluate technology advancements and implications to hunters.

*          Create a clearing-house for information pertaining to the banning of lead shot.

            Each of the goals has been assigned to an OHA state board member who is responsible for monitoring the goal and implementing any action plan associated with the goal.