Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is facing a $32 million funding shortage, which is in part is because fewer people hunt and fish there.
The Outdoor Wire published a Q&A with an Oregon state representative that shows what can happen when the quality of hunting and fishing declines, as well as access to it.
According to the report, "hunting and fishing are increasing in most states, yet five states that appear to be prime outdoor sports states are experiencing significant declines in hunting and fishing -- Vermont, Arkansas, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Oregon."
Interestingly, Oregon is the only state in the West among that group, despite having lots to offer hunters and anglers.
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The report says, "Oregon has the second-largest forest acreage of any state; a spectacular coastline with great ocean fishing; salmon, trout and steelhead in most rivers; and many rivers, lakes and wildlife refuges, yet the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold in Oregon are the lowest in 30 years as other outdoor recreation activities like wildlife watching are growing."
The decline in hunters and anglers is inversely proportional to Oregon's population, which grew from 2.6 million people in 1980 to 4 million in 2014, according to census reports.
Rep. Sal Esquivel (R), who is co-chair of the Oregon Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus, explains what's happening:
"Probably the largest factors contributing to the decline in hunting and fishing participation are the loss in access and diminished big game populations, both of which mean fewer opportunities to harvest animals. Declining deer and elk populations, whether it be from habitat loss, increased mortality from predators, or other factors, discourages a lot of people from heading into the field. On top of that, a lot of sportsmen also report a reduction in access to places to hunt and fish. It's tough for folks to justify buying a tag when their opportunity to harvest something, and even get in the field, is increasingly limited."
Esquivel continues: "This all coalesces to create a vicious cycle: Fewer hunting and fishing licenses sold means less money for conservation and fish and wildlife management, which in turn leads to diminished hunting and fishing success rates and opportunities. It's a complex problem that we have to fix; if we don't, we risk losing the outdoor traditions that make Oregon such a great place to live, not to mention losing the positive, critical conservation and economic impacts provided by hunting and fishing."
Idahoans who think it can't happen here are being naive. Every day, decisions are made that effect wildlife and public access. When a favorite hunting or fishing spot is lost or taken away, it gives one more hunter and angler a reason to skip buying a license and take up some other hobby, and they may not come back.
Conserving wildlife and access in Idaho and improving and enhancing them, as well as making hunting and fishing accessible to all residents, is critical to our future as hunters and anglers and also for future generations.
The problems Oregon is facing didn't happen overnight. It was a gradual erosion in the quality of hunting and fishing that has led to a financial crisis for the agency charged with managing the state's wildlife and providing opportunities for hunters and anglers.
It now faces a long, complicated and expensive effort to regain lost ground, which it may not win.