Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill into law Tuesday that creates a new fund aimed at bolstering the state’s wildlife conservation efforts.
The Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund will be overseen by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. The money will fund conservation programs identified in a three-year-old strategic plan that’s never been fully implemented. Much of the agency’s revenue comes from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.
David Moskowitz is the executive director of Conservation Anglers, one of many wildlife advocacy groups that supported the bill. He said the new fund will expand the money available for conservation projects.
"Oregonians who don’t hunt and fish still value wildlife," he said. "The challenge is, how do you get them to support that?”
Lawmakers put $1 million in tax dollars into the fund, but that money is locked away until the Department of Fish and Wildlife can raise another $1 million in private donations. Moskowitz said that fundraising effort is underway.
"If every citizen realizes their stake in Oregon's sustainable wildlife, that's going to be a steady incremental improvment in how we're able to respond to all sorts of challenges from climate change to drought to wildfires so that we can figure out what we might need to do differently with our human actions to make sure that our native wildlife persists," he said.
An earlier version of the bill dedicated $17 million to the fund, but the amount was reduced by the legislature's budget-writing committee. Lawmakers will have the option to extend or expand the fund during a future legislative session.