The sting of fee increases for fishing and hunting licenses might not smart as much as originally proposed.
Thanks to some pointed discussions and lengthy negotiations that resulted in amendments and modifications to several bills in the Oregon Legislature, the cost hikes to go fishing and hunting could be greatly reduced.
The Joint Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources on Wednesday approved with “do-pass” recommendations a package of five bills affecting the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Amendments recommended by the Legislative Fiscal Office would eliminate the proposed $10 annual endorsement on fishing licenses that would have been required to fish on the ocean.
It also reduces proposed increases in daily fishing licenses as well as resident annual fishing and hunting licenses and tags and would allow for the sale of a new one-day combination fishing/shellfish license.
To help pay for the decreased revenues, a companion bill, SB 5511, would increase the amount of general-fund money going to the department.
The fee increases in the original Fish and Wildlife budget proposal were designed – along with cuts in staff and programs – to fill an anticipated $32 million shortfall during the 2015-17 budget cycle.
Incremental fee increases also were proposed for the 2017-19 and 2019-21 budget cycles.
Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, the committee co-chair who got kudos from fellow members for his work on the bills, said all five bills are integrated components in a package designed to ensure fiscal health for Fish and Wildlife.
Other bills approved Wednesday:
•House Bill 3459 A would set up the Oregon Outdoor Activities Investment Planning Task Force to make recommendations about increasing fishing in Oregon for the state’s youth as well as providing strategies for promoting outdoor recreation in Oregon through coordinated efforts among state agencies and local governments.
The bill also would authorize the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to approve up to eight days a year when no licenses or tags are required to fish, crab and clam vs. the current two days during Free Fishing Weekend.
•HB 2402, another task-force bill, would set up a group to study additional and alternative sources of money to make the Fish and Wildlife budget sustainable in the face of declining or flat numbers of anglers and hunters.
•HB 2402 ties into the amended fee bill, SB 247 and provides an incentive for the task force and the legislature to come up with viable long-term budget solutions for Fish and Wildlife.
Because if funding meets or exceeds the department’s projected revenue requirements by 2020, the third round of fee hikes that kick in that year would be canceled.
•Finally, the committee approved HB 3012 A, which would set up an Oregon Hatchery Research Center Fund using money from a surcharge on fishing licenses and commercial landing fees to pay for the center, a joint research station on the Alsea River operated by Oregon State University and Fish and Wildlife.
Each of the bills move on to the respective chambers to be considered by the full Senate and House.