Dismantling ODFW and assembling the Oregon Department of Natural Resources? SB 521

The legislators in Salem are putting together a bill to merge state fish and wildlife agencies with parks and land departments, creating an umbrella organization — the Oregon Department of Natural Resources, presumably in a move save the state some money.

Some of us have argued that ODFW can’t really operate in the interest of wild fish, when the agency literally survives on license sales revenues, so decoupling fisheries management decisions from how they might affect the agency’s budget could be a good thing for native salmonids. But it is too soon to tell if this proposal would be a step in the right direction or not. What do you think?

SB 521: Establishes Oregon Department of Natural Resources and Oregon Natural Resources Commission. Directs Governor to appoint Director of Oregon Department of Natural Resources and members of commission. Establishes Oregon Natural Resources Fund. Continuously appropriates moneys in fund to department for purpose of carrying out its duties, functions and powers. Abolishes State Department of Fish and Wildlife, State Fish and Wildlife Commission, State Parks and Recreation Department, State Parks and Recreation Commission, Department of State Lands, Department of Land Conservation and Development, Land Conservation and Development Commission, Land Use Board of Appeals, State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Water Resources Department, Water Resources Commission, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, State Forestry Department, State Board of Forestry and Oregon Forest Resources Institute. Transfers duties, functions and powers from abolished departments, commissions and boards to Oregon Department of Natural Resources. Declares emergency, effective on passage.

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13 Responses to Dismantling ODFW and assembling the Oregon Department of Natural Resources? SB 521

  1. Interesting. That’s a pretty broad-reaching agency. I think your point about decoupling license fees with fish management is a sensible one.
    I’m a bit surprised to see the Land Use Board of Appeals on this list. While they do engage in a lot of resource vs. development cases, my experience watching them wrangle issues concerns me that those matters alone could tie up the proposed department’s time quite a bit.
    My guess is that all the bureaucracy won’t simply disappear; the new department would most likely be full of advisory boards and committees in the place of full-blown existing departments and commissions. That creates one decision point, but it concentrates a lot of power.

  2. Rob R says:

    While I’m desperate for a solution to ODFW’s conflict of interest, this sounds creepy. Time for us all to get more educated on this bill…

  3. SeanC says:

    This wont “decouple” ODFW from license fee’s at all. . . It will be the same practices under a different name. DNR will sell license’s and use the money to fund whatver division or branch is doing the work ODFW did.

    I think this could reduce a lot of overhead and save money, perhaps even improve enforcement (OSP would be getting it’s funds from one agency instead of a couple). I wonder why DEQ was left off of the list

  4. Flash says:

    Sounds like an opportunity for fisheries staff to run amok with even less oversight from commissioners that are, at least in theory, reachable by the public.

  5. MT says:

    DEQ is on the list. There are two bills, and one doesn’t make sense. SB 521 creates the DNR. SB 169, though, creates a task force to investigate whether making the DNR is a good idea or not. Why would a legislator propose 521 before the task set up by 169 does its job? Dunno. That seems stupid. 169 gives the task force a deadline of July 1, 2012. The task force is our opportunity to review the facts and offer opinions.

    SB 169 does list DEQ:

    (a) The State Department of Fish and Wildlife;
    (b) The Department of State Lands;
    (c) The Land Use Board of Appeals;
    (d) The Water Resources Department;
    (e) The State Department of Agriculture;
    (f) The Columbia River Gorge Commission;
    (g) The Oregon Forest Resources Institute;
    (h) The State Forestry Department;
    (i) The State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries;
    (j) The Department of Environmental Quality;
    (k) The Department of Land Conservation and Development;
    (L) The State Marine Board;
    (m) The State Parks and Recreation Department; and
    (n) The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

    … and DEQ is listed in the actual language of 521 (it’s just omitted from the summary).

    Not sure how I feel about this. What problem are they trying to solve? It’s been my experience smaller bureaucracies are easier to move than large ones (I mean, none of them move quickly, but the larger ones are even worse … think of the tragicomedies that are ODOT or Human Services for gawd’s sake).

  6. Oregon Fly Fishing Blog says:

    Great comments and clarifications guys. Keep ’em coming.

  7. Snoopy Rodder says:

    I expect more of the same: aka the “25 Year Plan” & hatcheries. Looking at today’s big picture, Dismantling ODFW and assembling the Oregon Department of Natural Resources is just an attempt to cut cost.

    Newt Gingrich Pushing Bill To Allow States To File Bankruptcy Allowing Them To Renege On Pension And Benefit Obligations


    It ain’t looking good folks.


  8. SeanC says:

    I looked through the bill and I can’t see where DEQ will be eliminated and become part of DNR. . .maybe I missed it in the 1,100+ pages. A lot of the ORS’s that would be changed would require the head of DEQ to consult with the head of DNR instead of the head of ODFW.

    On the federal level I’ve always wondered why BLM, Forest Service, Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service weren’t all brought together under one agency. Or, for that matter, why at least the Forest Service wasn’t pulled out of Agriculture and put under Interior so at least the major federal land managers would be in the same department.

    In my view it makes sense for consistent management of the state’s lands/resources. I don’t think it will do anything though to remove the dependence of fish and wildlife management on license and tag fee’s.

  9. Derek Johnson says:

    I would be very cautious about this bill until I knew who was backing it. Some of the departments and agencies proposed to be eliminated have long been targeted by those who favor sprawl and exploitation, instead of conservation of our natural resources. Consolidating all of them into one agency might make it much easier for developers to control the process.

  10. mlwebb says:

    Who is supporting this may give some indication of intention. My concern would be that it is an attempt to slide “conservation” agencies under the umbrella of folks who are more interested in resource extraction and development.

  11. Tony says:

    Sounds like a great oppertunity to have people with little or zero knowledge, but plenty of power to make decisions about your favorite passtime.
    Take the U of O base ball program for exzample, uh too expensive, OK GONE !

  12. Bob R. says:

    In my opinion and experience, super-sizing organizations–whether governmental agencies or schools:
    1) rarely provide much in the way of long-term cost savings,
    2) make it harder to influence decisions (as per MT) by adding layers of bureaucracy,
    3) give control to bureaucrats who have little or no knowledge about the resource (as per Tony),
    4) reduce accountability, and
    5) muddy the relationships between funding and action.

    Whether DEQ or any other agency, making them part of a super agency won’t change what they do. All any agency does is enforce the statutes created by the legislature. If ODFW isn’t doing enough for wild fish, it’s because the legislature hasn’t provided the direction or funding so they can. For the most part, it’s not the agencies that are the problem.

  13. Guest says:

    I have a lot of experience with state (and some with fed) nat resources agencies, and state government and politics, and I say Bob R’s comments are right on the money. Actually, I don’t agree with his #3, but I think all his other points and comments are beyond dispute.

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