Gov. Brown to Fish and Wildlife Commission: “Not acceptable”

This article originally appeared in the The Oregonian/OregonLive.  The view the original version, click here.

By Bill Monroe | For The Oregonian/OregonLive
on February 09, 2017 at 8:35 PM, updated February 09, 2017 at 9:00 PM

Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Bruce Buckmaster discusses the recent commission decision to continue gill-netting for salmon in the Columbia River with a crowd of sport anglers at the Portland Expo Center Thursday afternoon. Photo – Bill Monroe

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown chastised the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Thursday, calling its recent balk at moving gill-nets off the lower Columbia River “not acceptable.”

The commission voted 4-3 on Jan. 20 to set aside a bi-state agreement to shift commercial gill-nets to off-channel areas and allow continued netting during parts of the year. The agreement with Washington would have allowed alternative, less deadly methods of commercially harvesting the river’s hatchery salmon in the mainstem, but not gill-nets.

“Oregon and Washington have invested a great deal of time and effort in resolving conflicts and providing certainty for fisheries in the lower Columbia River,” read Brown’s letter to Commission Chair Michael Finley. “It is the policy of my administration to honor those commitments.”

Brown gave Finley and the commission until April 3 to “align the rules of the Fish and Wildlife Commission with the policies of my administration.”

She did not mention any consequences in her letter, made public just before a potentially contentious showdown between all four of the commission members in the majority, and two others, with more than 200 angry sport anglers who jammed a meeting room at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show. The show lasts through Sunday afternoon at the Portland Expo Center.

Sprinkled in the crowd were half dozen Oregon State Police fish and wildlife troopers, most of them in uniform.

As Curt Melcher, director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, began introducing the commissioners – the event was billed as a reception – a chorus of boos met Commissioner Bruce Buckmaster of Astoria, a gill-net strategist who’s been the flashpoint for criticism of the Jan. 20 decision.

The outburst brought a forceful response from Bruce Polley of the Coastal Conservation Association and also one of the largest men in the room, who said in a deep booming voice: “Let’s try to keep this civil,” reminding the anglers they were here to listen and talk with the commissioners.

The CCA and other sportfishing groups will host a town hall meeting at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Hall A at the show. Admission isn’t required. The agenda won’t include commissioners, but is about their decision.

Commissioner Finley didn’t make Thursday’s reception, but Vice Chair Bob Webber defused the confrontation by suggesting commissioners mix with the crowd and open discussions.

Other than widespread applause at a suggestion Buckmaster resign, there were no more outbursts and about half the crowd filtered out of the room within several minutes.

The commission meets Friday in Tigard, starting at 8 a.m. in Embassy Suites near Washington Square.

Brown’s letter isn’t on the agenda, but will almost certainly be discussed as commissioners figure out a timeline to meet Brown’s deadline.

It will be close, since there are state laws requiring substantial notice to change an approved rule and adopt another.

The commission could also vote to not change its mind, but that would almost certainly draw the Legislature into the discussion and several lawmakers have already been sharply critical of the commission decision, contrary to legislation passed in 2013.