Tag Archives: Mark Labhart

ODFW Excited With State, Federal Pushes For Conservation Funding

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Two bills—one signed by the Governor earlier this month (HB 2829), and one recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 3742)—offer the most significant opportunities to fund fish and wildlife conservation in a century.

ODFW IMAGES SHOW SOME OF THE SPECIES THAT WOULD BENEFIT FROM IMPROVED MANAGEMENT FUNDING THROUGH A RECENTLY SIGNED STATE BILL AND ONE INTRODUCED AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. (ODFW)

This year, the 2019 Oregon State Legislature passed HB 2829 to create the Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund to conserve and manage Oregon’s fish, wildlife, and their habitats. The bill puts $1 million in General Fund aside, to be matched by $1 million in private funds raised by ODFW, as seed money towards an alternative, sustainable funding source. It also creates an Oregon Conservation and Recreation Advisory Committee to recommend how to spend monies from the Fund.

The 2019 bill was based on the recommendations of a Task Force created by the 2015 Oregon State Legislature that explored alternative funding for fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation. Among other uses, the new Fund will be used to implement the Oregon Conservation Strategy, a blueprint for conservation in Oregon that supports voluntary actions to conserve species and their vital habitats before they become more rare and costly to protect.

“In 2016, the Task Force for funding for Fish, Wildlife and Related Outdoor Recreation and Education conducted a survey of Oregonians. It was clear from the survey that Oregonians strongly value our state’s fish and wildlife, including many people who don’t hunt and fish. Yet the majority of the funding for ODFW’s programs are funded by hunters and anglers,” said Mark Labhart, Chair of the Task Force. “The Legislature agreed and HB 2829 gets us started and well on the way to implementing the Oregon Conservation Strategy.”

“The Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund will help ensure that future generations of Oregonians can continue to enjoy the incredible natural landscapes that are so central to our way of life,” said Representative Ken Helm (D-Washington County), who was one of the sponsors of HB 2829.

Another significant funding source on the horizon is the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 3742), introduced on July 12 by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Fortenberry (R-NE) and currently supported by 70 Members of Congress including Oregon Representatives Bonamici, Blumenauer, DeFazio, and Schrader. The bill would dedicate approximately $1.3 billion annually to state fish and wildlife agencies and an additional $97.5 million for tribal fish and wildlife managers to implement science-based wildlife action plans like the Oregon Conservation Strategy, with funding coming from the general treasury.

Apportionment of these dollars to the states would be based on population and land mass. ODFW estimates $23 million per year could be provided to implement the Oregon Conservation Strategy and connect more Oregonians to the outdoors. This would represent an estimated 12 percent boost to ODFW’s current budget.

In Oregon, these funds could immediately be used to support targeted investment in conservation activities that support endangered species recovery, like what Oregon did to help recover the Oregon chub. Funds could also be used to build a program to engage communities across the state in collecting observations of Oregon’s species where data is lacking, such as western pond turtle. It could also provide funds to ODFW’s conservation partners for voluntary habitat restoration across the state. Some of the species that would benefit from these funds include red abalone, nearshore rockfish species, Oregon spotted frog, trumpeter swan, Townsend’s big-eared bat and white sturgeon among many others.

“The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would allow us to fully implement the Oregon Conservation Strategy and truly begin to address species conservation proactively instead of the reactive, emergency approach of the Endangered Species Act,” said ODFW Director Curt Melcher. “From my perspective, passing this bill could be the most significant moment in fish and wildlife conservation in the United States this century.”

As with all federal grants, some state match of federal funds would be required (HR 3742 requires a 25 percent match from state funds). Funds from the Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund could be used to leverage these potential new funds from the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

More about fish and wildlife conservation funding

It was nearly 100 years ago that the Wildlife Restoration Act (aka Pittman-Robertson) and the later Sport Fish Restoration Act (aka Dingell-Johnson) were passed by federal lawmakers. These laws permanently dedicated excise taxes from the sale of hunting and fishing equipment to the states to support fish and wildlife conservation. They are credited with helping restore elk, cougar, bighorn sheep, salmon, steelhead and interior redband trout, among other species in Oregon. Funds from these excise taxes also helped purchase and maintain nearly 200,000 acres of land managed exclusively for wildlife habitat and recreation in Oregon (state Wildlife Areas such as Summer Lake and Sauvie Island).

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife receives very little state General Fund (less than 10 percent) or federal tax dollars, instead relying on hunting and license dollars, excise tax dollars, and other grants to fund the majority of the work. This funding model cannot keep up with the challenges facing Oregon’s fish and wildlife from human population growth, development, drought, climate change and ocean acidification. Funds from Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson are also focused on species that can be hunted or fished for and limited in the types of conservation work they can cover. This leaves many of Oregon’s species of greatest conservation need without a dedicated funding source.

Oregon and other states across the country have participated in a multi-year effort to diversify the way they fund conservation in the United States. Their goal is to expand conservation efforts to proactively address the 21st century challenges that affect the diverse fish, wildlife, and habitats of the nation and connect more people with nature and the outdoors.

For more information, visit https://www.nwf.org/Our-Work/Wildlife-Conservation/Policy/Recovering-Americas-Wildlife-Act

Oregon Senate Confirms 4 New ODFW Commissioners

Four Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission nominees were among dozens of gubernatorial appointments confirmed by the state Senate earlier this month.

Mark Labhart, Robert Spelbrink, Mary Wahl and Jill Zarnowitz will now join the seven-member citizen panel, replacing four outgoing commissioners over this and the next couple months.

SEN. ARNIE ROBLAN ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE. (OREGON)

Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) called the quartet and others up for appointment to various state boards “an amazing assortment of Oregonians” before the 27-1 “en bloc” vote May 15 before the full Senate.

It followed a May 8 do-confirm nod from the Rules Committee, on which Roblan sits.

Spelbrink is a retired commercial fisherman of 40 years and fishing guide of 20 years on the Siletz. According to Senate documents, his term began May 15 and runs through May 31, 2020.

Wahl, who managed toxic cleanups for the state and watershed operations in Portland, now lives in Langlois and co-owns her family’s ranch and is on the board of Wild Rivers Land Trust. Her term began May 15 and runs through May 14, 2023.

Labhart, who worked for the state Department of Forestry, was a Tillamook County Commissioner and now lives in Sisters. His term begins July 1 and runs through June 30, 2023.

Zarnowitz operates a winery near Yamhill after a 40-year career in natural resources management in Oregon and Washington. Her term begins Sept. 1 and runs through Aug. 31, 2023.

ROBERT SPELBRINK, MARY WAHL AND JILL ZARNOWITZ SPEAK BEFORE A SENATE COMMITTEE DURING A HEARING ON THEIR NOMINATION TO SERVE ON THE OREGON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION. A FOURTH NOMINEE, MARK LABHART, PHONED IN TO DISCUSS HIS QUALIFICATIONS. (OREGON)

Application documents show that both Labhart and Spelbrink hunt and fish.

The four are replacing Bob Webber of Port Orford, Bruce Buckmaster of Astoria, Chair Michael Finley of Medford and Holly Akenson of Enterprise.

In the Senate’s mid-May laundry-list vote, Buckmaster’s appointment to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board was also approved. He was a thorn in the side of Columbia sportfishing interests during his time on the fish commission.

Gov. Kate Brown’s nomination of a fifth potential fish and game commissioner, Northeast Oregon hunter, outfitter and conservationist James Nash, was not heard by the Senate Rules Committee earlier this month after outcry from environmental groups, but his application is still technically active when the upper chamber next convenes, according to Senate rules.

4 ODFW Commission Nominees Given Do-Confirm Nod As 5th’s Dismissal Stirs Debate

Four Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission nominees received do-confirm recommendations yesterday afternoon from a state Senate committee that also declined to consider a fifth.

The move means that senators will take up the appointments of Mark Labhart, Robert Spelbrink, Mary Wahl and Jill Zarnowitz on the floor of the upper chamber, while the dismissal of Capt. James Nash continues to stir debate.

ROBERT SPELBRINK, MARY WAHL AND JILL ZARNOWITZ SPEAK BEFORE A SENATE COMMITTEE DURING A HEARING ON THEIR NOMINATION TO SERVE ON THE OREGON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION. A FOURTH NOMINEE, MARK LABHART, PHONED IN TO DISCUSS HIS QUALIFICATIONS. (OREGON)

Nash, a Northeast Oregon hunter, outfitter and conservationist whose nomination was first reported here, drew the ire of environmental groups who poked around in his Instagram account and brought images to the attention of reporters, which resulted in puzzling headlines at the Willamette Week and The Oregonian, as if it was wrong to have a hunter on the panel overseeing the management of the state’s fish and wildlife.

They also didn’t like that he was a member of a longtime Wallowa County ranching family and the son of a critic of wolf management in the area.

As the Oregon Outdoor Council rallied to Nash’s defense, there was pushback from both Jayson Jacoby of the Baker City Herald and Bill Monroe, outdoor writer at The Oregonian.

“Photos of his hippo and crocodile kills triggered an unfair rush to judgment of a man who, after medical retirement from the Marines, dedicated his life to the environment, river restoration, responsible range management and teaching others to hunt and fish,” wrote Monroe in arguing Nash deserved a hearing.

“The implication, at least based on the headlines and photographs, is that a man who not only kills animals but does so, in some cases, for sport rather than for food, is incapable of responsibly overseeing the conservation of wildlife,” wrote Jacoby.

After Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) spiked Nash’s nomination, it came out that “his big-game hunting was never the real issue.”

“The real issue, [environmental groups] say, is that Gov. Brown had a rare opportunity to change the culture at the top of her fish and wildlife agency and instead chose not to,” reported OPB.

It all led one longtime Northwest hook-and-bullet-world writer to wonder if “social prejudice” and “political correctness” wasn’t at work.

“The irony of environmentalists blocking the nomination of a veteran and lifelong outdoorsman to serve on the Fish & Wildlife commission — which is responsible for setting hunting and fishing seasons and regulations — seems overwhelming,” wrote Dave Workman for Ammoland.

As for the four whose nominations are proceeding, they detailed their interests to the Rules Committee.

Labhart, who worked for the state Department of Forestry, was a Tillamook County Commissioner and now lives in Sisters, told senators that he’d been involved with ODFW “for decades” and would approach the commission position with an open mind and wasn’t coming in with an agenda.

Spelbrink, a retired commercial fisherman of 40 years and fishing guide of 20 years on the Siletz, said the state’s natural resources had “been a huge part of my life” and hoped that his background would be valuable to the citizen panel.

Application documents show that both Labhart and Spelbrink hunt and fish.

Wahl, who managed toxic cleanups for the state and watershed operations in Portland and now lives in Langlois and co-owns her family’s ranch and is on the board of Wild Rivers Land Trust, said with her on-the-job experiences and policy work would make her “an effective, enganged commissioner.”

Zarnowitz operates a winery near Yamhill and said she had had a 40-year career in natural resources management in Oregon and Washington, and was “pleased” to offer her services to the state.

Their nominations, as well as dozens of others, including outgoing ODFW Commissioner Bruce Buckmaster to the Oregon Water Enhancement Board, were given do-confirm recommendations without any debate by Sen. Burdick’s committee.

Next up in the process is a floor vote.

Brown Sends Oregon Senate List Of 5 New Commission Nominees

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has submitted a slate of Fish and Wildlife Commission candidates to the state Senate for consideration next month.

The field includes a double Purple Heart recipient/Northeast Oregon hunting guide; Willamette Valley winery owner/former Department of Fish and Wildlife staffer; Siletz guide/crabber; chair of the ODFW legislative funding task force; and a Wild Rivers Coast Alliance board of directors member/South Coast rancher.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES LUKEMAN PRESENTS 1ST LT. JIM NASH OF THE 2ND TANK BATTALION WITH ONE OF TWO PURPLE HEART MEDALS HE RECEIVED ON MARCH 6, 2013 FOR WOUNDS SUSTAINED IN A MORTAR ATTACK AND FROM AN IED WHILE DEPLOYED IN AFGHANISTAN. (CPL. AUSTIN LONG, DVIDS)

Those nominees are Capt. James Nash, Jill Zarnowitz, Robert Spelbrink, Mark Labhart, and Mary Wahl.

Nash is a member of a longtime Wallowa County cattle ranching family and served as a Marine Corps tank commander in Afghanistan. He describes his life on the ranch and his duty overseas in a compelling July 2018 video produced by Oregon optics maker Leupold.

Zarnowitz has a master’s degree from the University of Washington in fish and wildlands management and worked on water policy for ODFW, and has been the general manager and now coowner of Stag Hollow Wines outside Yamhill.

Spelbrink guides on the Siletz River and has operated the F/V Alliance fishing commercially for crab as well as salmon and albacore.

Wahl also comes from a ranching family, but in the opposite corner of Oregon, near Langlois. With a masters in public administration from Harvard, she managed toxic cleanups for the state and watershed operations in Portland before retiring “to focus on conservation efforts on Oregon’s south coast,” according to her commission application.

And Labhart worked for the Oregon Department of Forestry, served on a board looking into sudden oak death syndrome issues, retired after several years as a Tillamook County Commissioner, and chaired the state legislature’s task force that looked for ways to better fund ODFW before moving to Sisters.

They are scheduled to be considered by the Senate Rules Committee on May 8.

At full strength, Oregon’s commission has seven members, one from each of the state’s five Congressional districts, a sixth from west of the Cascades, the seventh from east of the crest.

Currently there is one open seat while the terms of Chair Michael Finley of Medford and members Holly Akenson of Enterprise and Bruce Buckmaster of Astoria all expire in the coming two months.

The nomination of Buckmaster four springs ago sparked well-founded unease amongst the sportfishing industry, though he was ultimately confirmed by the Senate. His term isn’t being extended for a second four years, but Brown has nominated him to serve on the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board — where he had been the Fish and Wildlife Commission representative since last year — in an at-large seat, according to a member of the governor’s staff.

The terms of Jim Bittle of Central Point and Greg Wolley of Portland run into next year, while that of Bob Webber of Port Orford had been extended past the end of his second term in February 2018 until new commissioners are named, when his service will end, according to the official.

Editor’s note, 9 a.m. April 22, 2019: The last two paragraphs have been tweaked to clarify that Mr. Buckmaster’s appointment to the watershed board would essentially transition from being the representative of the Fish and Wildlife Commission to a public at-large position if confirmed, and that Mr. Webber’s extended term on the commission would end in mid-May after Senate confirmation of new members.