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Commission head: Fees and cuts only options

Michael Finley will be in Salem Friday chairing the monthly meeting of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission with every intent of being there the next four years.

The Medford resident and former National Park Service superintendent was passed over for reconfirmation to the commission last month by an Oregon Senate committee amid criticisms from some senators over the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's financial troubles under his watch.

Finley said this week that a lack of assistance from the state General Fund means a request to the Oregon Legislature to increase hunting and fishing fees set in 2009 and the agency's proposed budget cuts are the only paths to solvency and fulfilling the department's myriad mandates.

And anyone watching should have seen this coming, Finley said.

"That shouldn't be foreign to anyone," he said.

"I was used to this in the federal government," he said. "You have all these expenses but not the authority to raise revenue."

Finley, who was not present at last month's confirmation hearing by the Senate Rules Committee because of a work commitment, said he will be at the next hearing.

Finley has the support of Gov. Kate Brown, who could have pulled Finley's nomination and sent the committee her own nomination.

"We're not pulling his nomination," governor's spokesman Chris Pair said.

When Finley was appointed by then-Gov. John Kitzhaber in 2011, the nomination sailed through the Senate without a dissenting vote. But senators presiding in last month's nomination hearings criticized the department for seeking fee increases among a dwindling pool of Oregon's hunters and anglers whose license fees also fund non-game programs such as wolf management and protecting native species from exotics.

Former Republican Sen. Jason Atkinson of Central Point was confirmed in those hearings, and Friday will be his first meeting on the commission that oversees fish and wildlife management in Oregon as well as sets policies carried out by the ODFW.

The 68-year-old Finley previously ran three national parks and is now president of media mogul Ted Turner's philanthropic foundation.

Finley represents Western Oregon, while Atkinson represents the vast 2nd Congressional District.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.