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ODFW seeks boost in revenue

SALEM — Budget woes at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have state lawmakers and outdoors experts teaming up to find a new source of revenue for the agency.

A recent Secretary of State audit shows ODFW's costs rising much faster than its revenue, reported The Bulletin. Hunters and anglers describe being trapped in a vicious cycle with the department:  As ODFW raises license fees to boost revenue, fewer people buy the licenses.

About 20 lawmakers and leaders from outdoors, tourism and wildlife viewing groups are exploring ways to raise money from wildlife viewers and others interested in healthy wildlife populations.

"Fifty percent of our agency revenue comes from hunters and anglers" and a match from federal funds, said ODFW director Curt Melcher. The projection for future revenue is flat, he added.

Over the last year, the agency has cut 10 percent of its licensed staff, mostly from the fishing side. ODFW also worked with the Legislature to increase the cost of fishing licenses to fill a budget gap that needed to be addressed immediately.

To help keep the department afloat, the task force is trying to bring hunters and wildlife watchers together.

"In the natural resource and hunting and fishing arenas there are a lot of conflicting values," said task force member Sen. Chris Edwards, a Eugene Democrat. "We have to come up with a solution."

The task force includes former top officials the Audubon Society of Portland, a retired attorney, the director of a Salem bike racing association and the vice president of Columbia Sportswear, among other members.

Though task force members have expressed a love of Central or Eastern Oregon, where hunting and angling is more popular, none of them live there.

The owner of Oregon Pack Works in Redmond said Monday that he isn't surprised by the group's composition.

"Welcome to Oregon politics," said owner Karl Findling. "This is a conundrum we're in right now in this state, geographically, and it's a great example with this task force."