UPDATED 1:37 P.M., MAY 21, 2015
On an 18-12 vote late this morning, Oregon senators voted controversial nominee Bruce Buckmaster onto the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
He had been vigorously opposed by Columbia River sportfishing interests who argued that it created an imbalance on the citizen panel that oversees the Department of Fish And Wildlife. They’re now demanding that the two apparent open seats be filled by recreational-business-oriented representatives.
Senators also confirmed one of their former members, Jason Atkinson of the Medford area, on a 27-3 vote. He has been listed as a fly fishermen, and for that matter, Buckmaster’s Facebook feed is also rife with fly-caught salmonids.
Before the Buckmaster vote, several senators rose in support of the Astoria man with ties to commercial fishing.
They included Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay), who referenced Buckmaster’s time working on state hatchery issues and said he had came up with a phosphorous-free fish food to feed young salmonids.
Pointing to work he did in Indiana, Roblan said, “This is a person who has been actively engaged in his community wherever he’s been,” and he read a letter of support from the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, which represents tribes in Eastern Oregon, Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
Sen. Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) said that although he once had had a strong disagreement with Buckmaster over a salmon issue, he thought that he brought business experience “and on the whole, we’ll have a balanced commission.”
That was refuted by one of the two senators who stood against Gov. Kate Brown’s nominee.
Sen. Fred Girord (R-Stayton) said that on a seven-member board, you’d expect to have someone from the sportfishing industry, but that was not the case.
“That bothers me,” he said, then read off license contributions made to ODFW by sport and commercial fishermen ($63 million compared to $500,000, according to the senator).
Sportfishers point to Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Laura Anderson of Newport, the daughter of a commercial fisherman, as representing that side without a balance on their side.
Reading from sportfishing statistics, Sen. Laurie Monnes-Anderson D-Gresham) also voiced her opposition.
When the president of the senate called for a vote on Buckmaster’s nomination, there was a moment when things looked tighter than they ultimately turned out to be.
At two points it was a tie, 4-4 and 5-5, but then the vote pulled away 9-5, and while three of the four final votes went against, at that point it didn’t matter anymore.
For recreational anglers, today’s vote was billed as the “Future of Sportfishing To Be Decided,” and the results will leave a bad taste in the mouth for them. On the other hand, the nomination was so controversial it had to be split off from some 90-plus appointments Brown put forward last month, and that is a victory of sorts.
Still, the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association called the result “disappointing.”
“This puts the commercial industry representation at two and zero from the sportfishing industry,” said NSIA executive director Liz Hamilton.
While the tone of the campaign against Buckmaster shifted towards the question of balance, one wonders if the new commissioner will be able to forgive the earlier efforts and oversee ODFW and its myriad opportunities and responsibilities with an even hand.
If there’s any more solace, it came after the vote.
Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) called for a complete overhaul of the current ODFW administration and the commission, while Sen. Ted Feroli (R-John Day) noted the imbalance on the commission and said he was “insisting that it be addressed.”
He said he was amenable to not confirming two of Brown’s reappointments, Chairman Michael Finley and commissioner Holly Akenson.
That could leave an opening for a sportfishing industry-oriented nomination.
Hamilton called on NSIA members and those who’d heeded the call of aligned groups to thank their senators for their no votes, and take the opportunity “to remind them that the next two appointees need to be from the industry.”