ODFW Commission Approves Sending Fish-Hunt Fee Increase Request To Governor

Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission today unanimously approved sending a request to increase fishing and hunting license fees to the Governor’s Office for consideration in the 2025-27 budget, albeit with a memo to express concerns about the potential closure of two hatcheries, trying to keep the costs of bear, cougar and turkey tags as is, and more.


Hiking the price of recreational and commercial licenses as well as creating a new $7 ocean angling endorsement would raise $18 million, according to ODFW’s proposal, with license and tag fees scheduled to be raised every two years from 2026 through 2030, if approved by state lawmakers.

The only outright opposition the commission heard during its meeting in Chiloquin today came from commercial fishermen, with trawler fleet representatives asking that their various fees not be increased due to a slate of industry woes.

On the hunting side, Mike Totey of the Oregon Hunters Association said his organization by and large supported the increases, but wanted bruin and mountain lion tags to be kept at $16.50 instead of rise to $21 by 2030 so as to not dissuade hunters from purchasing them. He also highlighted the disproportionately of a $30 turkey tag compared to a $38 deer tag by the end of the decade.

All of that struck chords with Commissioner Mark Labhart of Sisters, who said he is worried about the widespread decline of mule deer herds and predation – the commission is also approving a new management plan for the ungulates today.

While Bruce Polley of Coastal Conservation Association of Oregon expressed concern about pushing away anglers of modest means and said that ODFW needs to do more to advocate getting Oregon salmon and steelhead back to Oregon streams, he added that his organization looked forward to working with the commission and agency so they had the needed resources to conserve fish and provide angling opportunities.

It’s been nine years since state legislators last passed a fee increase, and 2020 was the last year the cost of resident angling licenses, combined angling tags, deer tags and the rest were bumped up.

Fishing license fees would generally increase 14 percent in 2026 and 6 percent in both 2028 and 2030. Hunting licenses would rise 12, 8 and 8 percent. Youth licensing would not be affected, or only minimally so. I outlined individual item costs in my story last week and how the Columbia River Basin Endorsement, while not a part of the budget request, is proposed to have its 2026 sunset extended.

ODFW says the overall budget proposal is being driven by flat license sales, “tremendous” inflation in recent years, increasing governmental service charges and other costs they don’t control, and a directive from Salem to not expect more than a 1 percent boost, or just over $700,000, in General Fund disbursements in the next budget.

Without the increase, its Fish Division would have a forecasted shortfall of $21 million by 2027-29 and widespread cuts to license- and non-federally funded programs would be needed to balance the books and would sharply affect harvest opportunities.

The agency is pairing its fee hike proposal with $8 million in program cuts, including two facilities, Rock Creek on the North Umpqua and Salmon on the coast near Lincoln City.

Hatchery production is a hot-button issue with anglers, and the potential closures didn’t sit well with Commissioner Leslie King of Portland either. She questioned staff about the need.

Mike Harrington, Fish Division head, said that with one-third of ODFW’s budget going to hatcheries, it’s essentially “almost impossible” not to look at cuts to them during a financial crunch. He explained that Rock Creek was burned in 2020’s Archie Creek fire, while Salmon has deferred maintenance and water sourcing issues, and fixing both would require substantial investments.

Vice Chair Becky Hatfield-Hyde of Paisley inquired about what might happen to an insurance settlement that came out of that wildfire, to which it was revealed that ODFW is set to receive $17 million this summer for rebuilding at Rock Creek or another location, depending on how details are read, but much more money is needed to get production of summer steelhead, spring Chinook and trout going there again.

In a Facebook post before today’s commission decision, the Umpqua Fishery Enhancement Derby said it was “extremely disappointed” ODFW was proposing to close Rock Creek, saying it had “contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars” to operations there in the past and that the agency needed to reengage with the community on rebuilding.

Labhart noted that the commission had also received a letter from the Coquille Tribe about the potential unilateral closure before a legislatively mandated hatchery assessment has been completed.

It all added up to say, not so fast, thus his idea for a memo that will go along with the formal budget request.

There were also a couple General Fund-related policy priorities shuffled around between the initial proposal and today, with wildlife coexistence and wolf monitoring rising up the ladder, pleasing Chair Mary Wahl of Langlois.

Also likely pleasing Wahl, new Director Debbie Colbert’s vow to make it her top priority to secure new sources of revenue for the department. Corporate sponsorships were brought up as a tool for funding projects via the Community Reinvestment Act, and according to ODFW Fish Division director Mike Harrington there has been some interest already. “I think we’d be crazy not to accept help right now,” he said.

After Colbert said she and her staffers would do their best to capture the commission’s concerns on hatcheries, tag costs and more in a memo to go along with the budget request, Labhart moved to approve it, was seconded by Commissioner Bob Spelbrink of Siletz, and all six members, including Commissioner Kathayoon Khalil of Portland, voted in favor.

This story is far, far from over – today was just the first of many bites at the apple, as one agency staffer put it. To go into effect, the fee hikes and program reductions must be included in Governor Tina Kotek’s 2025-27 budget and then be passed by both the Oregon House and Senate. If so, Oregon sportsmen wouldn’t see costs increase until they started buying 2026 licenses as Christmas 2025 presents.