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ODFW Commission Meeting Will Focus On Cooperation With Federally Recognized Tribes

Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet Thursday and Friday, Dec. 15-16, in Portland. On Thursday, Commissioners will tour local fish and wildlife projects and meet with several groups promoting urban conservation and recreation throughout the Portland Metro area (see agenda). Several projects and partners highlighted on the tour have received funding from ODFW's Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund and highlight ODFW's ongoing commitment to urban ecology, environmental education, and outdoor equity.

To join, be at Sheraton Portland Hotel lobby by 8 a.m. and provide your own transportation and lunch. Friday's meeting starts at 8 a.m. at the Sheraton Portland Hotel, Mt Adams Room, 8235 NE Airport Way. See the full agenda and watch a livestream of the meeting at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/22/12_Dec/index.asp

To testify on one of the agenda items remotely on Friday, register at least 48 hours in advance (by Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 8 a.m.) at this link https://www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_E3UQSiYHT4Ked3G3bTQY-A

To testify in person, sign up at the meeting using paper forms provided. Comments can also be emailed to odfw.commission@odfw.oregon.gov

A public forum for people to comment on topics not on the agenda is scheduled for Friday morning after the Director's report. To participate in the public forum, contact ODFW Director's office at (503) 947-6044 or email ODFW.Commission@odfw.oregon.gov by Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 8 a.m. (48 hours prior to the meeting).

On Friday, in separate agenda items, the Commission will consider adopting cooperative management agreements and associated rules that would advance the government-to-government relationship between the State of Oregon and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians (Siletz Tribe) and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians (CCBUTI).

ODFW's mission closely aligns with the history and culture of the nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon, including the Siletz Tribe and CCBUTI. Members of these tribes and their ancestors have followed cultural practices related to sustainable management of fish and wildlife since time immemorial. ODFW wishes to enter voluntary cooperative partnerships with these tribes to collaborate, share resources and work as partners to develop and implement plans to protect, restore, and enhance fish and wildlife populations and their habitat.

The agreements also set up frameworks under which tribal members could participate in subsistence and ceremonial harvest of fish and wildlife resources that is licensed and managed by their tribal government in partnership with ODFW and the Oregon State Police. For CCBUTI, subsistence and ceremonial harvest could occur in a portion of their service area that includes all of Douglas, Lane, Jackson, Josephine and Coos counties. For the Siletz Tribe, the area includes four wildlife management units: Trask, Stott Mt, Alsea, Siuslaw and associated nearshore marine areas.

In other business, the Commission will consider:

Grant funding for projects recommended by the Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund (OCRF), Access and Habitat (A and H) and Restoration and Enhancement (R and E) boards: OCRF has recommended 25 projects for funding totaling approximately $1 million. Recommended projects address statewide conservation and/or recreation needs, with many projects also addressing drought preparedness and wildfire research. A and H proposals would renew several existing agreements that open private lands to public hunting access. R and E projects restore and enhance fisheries and fishing access. Commissioners will also be asked to appoint a Sport Fishing Representative to the R and E board.

Fish passage program rule changes: Oregon has a long history of protecting fish passage—as early as 1849 dams and obstructions were required to allow salmon to pass. Current fish passage policies were adopted by the Oregon State Legislature in 2001 and the Commission in 2002-06.

Proposed changes are based on the work of a Subcommittee that included stakeholders and lessons learned over the past 22 years. Changes are expected to increase the pace at which fish passage is provided at barriers by clarifying what triggers requirements, provide barrier owners a range of options to achieve compliance, ensure structures are more resilient to higher storm flows and encourage co-existence with beavers to advance nature-based restoration.

2023 groundfish regulations: Based on recent fisheries performance, ODFW staff recommend maintaining the 5-fish marine bag limit in 2023 to provide stability and a year-round fishery. Retention of quillback rockfish would continue to be prohibited given recent stock assessments. However, staff are recommending removing the 1-fish sub-bag limit for China and copper rockfishes as the current catch rates for these species are low.

Due to improvements in the status of yelloweye rockfish, staff are also recommending ending the 40-fathom seasonal depth restrictions which would allow all-depth groundfish fishing again in July and August. That means all-depth halibut anglers could keep bottomfish and halibut on the same trip when retention is allowed, simplifying regulations and increasing overall opportunity.

Petition to ban coyote-killing contests: Finally, the Commission will consider a petition from 15 organizations requesting the Commission initiate rulemaking to prohibit coyote killing contests in Oregon. Under the state's Administrative Procedures Act, the Commission can only accept or deny the petition during this meeting. Accepting the petition would direct ODFW to conduct a public rulemaking process, with any proposed rule changes considered at a future public meeting.

Under state statutes set by the Legislature, coyotes are classified as predatory animals "when they are or may be destructive to agricultural crops, products and activities." Statute ORS 496.162 states that the Fish and Wildlife Commission "shall not prescribe limitations on the times, places or amounts for the taking of predatory animals." Otherwise, coyotes are classified as unprotected mammals and subject to ODFW management including regulation of the manner of take.

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