Gov. John Kitzhaber has no plans to intercede in a disagreement between state wildlife officials and animal conservation groups over whether Oregon's self-imposed, five-year mandatory review of wildlife management plans should be dropped permanently.
Kitzhaber spokeswoman Christine Miles said Kitzhaber instead will leave the issue to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, which is scheduled Friday to vote on whether to drop the five-year timetable for management plan reviews. It's a timetable the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife routinely violates.
ODFW, in turn, has suggested that annual commission briefings replace the timetable, and that reviews be done when needed or ordered by the commission. The commission last month adopted a temporary suspension of the five-year rule for the black-bear plan.
State Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, sent a letter to Kitzhaber urging that the five-year timetable remain intact, saying he fears that having no mandatory reviews could leave the plans outdated and could lead to mismanagement of wildlife.
Miles said the seven-member commission will address Buckley's letter and concerns.
Buckley said Kitzhaber's decision to stay out of the issue was "totally understandable" because the state financial crisis represents "a heck of a lot on his plate right now."
But Buckley, co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, said he does not believe ODFW's management plans get adequate peer review before adoption.
The Applegate Valley-based conservation group Big Wildlife last fall threatened to sue the agency over its 13-year failure to update the Black Bear Management Plan under the five-year timetable. The group's program director said permanently dropping the five-year requirement weakens ODFW's accountability and reduces the likelihood that "best-available science" will drive the agency's management of big-game animals such as bears, cougars, deer and elk.
"I'm super-concerned the agency doesn't have a built-in system to make sure the best science is employed," Big Wildlife's Spencer Lennard said. "There's no external accountability."
But Ron Anglin, ODFW's Wildlife Division administrator, said any plan will be updated whenever the commission requests it.
Just before Big Wildlife's intent-to-sue notice reached ODFW, agency biologists had already begun laying the groundwork for a black bear management plan review, including rounds of public comment this spring.
Anglin said he expected the commission to vote on that plan in December.
At the present time, only the state's management plans for cougar, black-tailed deer and wolves have met the five-year review requirement.
The state's management plans for black bears, wild turkeys, mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats have not been updated within the past five years.
The five-year requirement dates back to the 1970s, when few such plans existed.
"If you have only one or two plans, that's easy to do," Anglin said. "But when you have a lot of plans, you're busy planning and not implementing those plans."