Election signals challenges ahead
Gun owners will likely come under fire in 2021
By Al Elkins, OHA Lobbyist
While at least one Oregon House of Representatives race was still too close to call at deadline, it looked like the Oregon House of Representatives and the Oregon Senate will pick up a Republican seat each.
This means the Democrats will maintain their Super Majority in both chambers, but the need for a 2/3 quorum in both chambers still exists.
Republicans in both chambers still have the numbers to walk out if they choose to do so to shut down the legislative process.
What Election Changes Could Bring
The beginning of the 2021 Legislative Session is just around the corner, but it is too early to know if the closure of the Capitol building to the public will continue or if the building will be open to the public sometime during the Legislative Session.
This past year during the Oregon Special Sessions, all Committee meetings and public testimony were done virtually. Adding a new twist to the virtual format is this question: do Legislative Committees have authority to vote virtually? If not, what does this do to the process? We will know more as we get closer to the start of the 2021 Legislative Session.
The makeup of the Oregon House and Senate are pretty much the same. What this means is that chances for gun legislation to be introduced are as high as they have ever been. COVID-19 stopped the anti-gun petitioners from gathering enough signatures to put their gun measures on the November ballot.
Will that continue in 2021, or will the COVID-19 vaccine enable business as usual? Will the coyote contest ban be reintroduced in 2021? Stay tuned for this and more.
On the National Level
Nationally there has been a change in leadership that will impact gun owner rights. President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris both bragged about their battles with the “gun lobby” in their Oregon Voters Guide statements.
OHA will, as always, monitor all gun legislation as the Oregon Legislature and Congress sessions begin in 2021.
Congressional House & Senate Results
Congressional Senate: 48 Democrats and 50 Republicans. 51 is needed for a majority. The control for the Senate is still a tossup with races in Georgia to determine the outcome. The Georgia runoff election is to be held in early January. (If there is a tie vote in the Senate, the Vice President has the deciding vote.)
Congressional House: 222 Democrats and 204 Republicans. 218 is needed for a majority.
Trump returns wolf management to states, tribes
More than 45 years after gray wolves were first listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Trump Administration and its many conservation partners are announcing the successful recovery of the gray wolf and its delisting from the ESA.
State and tribal wildlife management agency professionals will resume responsibility for sustainable management and protection of delisted gray wolves in states with gray wolf populations, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service monitors the species for five years to ensure the continued success of the species.
USFWS based its decision solely on the best scientific and commercial data available, a thorough analysis of threats and how they have been alleviated, and the ongoing commitment and proven track record of states and tribes to continue managing for healthy wolf populations once delisted.
This analysis includes the latest information about the wolf’s current and historical distribution in the contiguous United States.
In total, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is more than 6,000 wolves, greatly exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations.
OHA helps stop beaver trap ban
By Amy Patrick, OHA Outreach Coordinator
OHA, along with a coalition of sportsmen’s and natural resource associations, successfully defended the right to trap beaver on federally managed public lands in Oregon.
The topic was discussed, for the second time this year, at the November Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, with the petitioners seeking to permanently end all beaver trapping on over 53 percent of the state.
The Commission voted down the petition in a 3-3 split vote with commissioners Wahl, Wolley, and Zarnowitz voting for the petition, and commissioners Labhart, Spelbrink, and Hatfield-Hyde voting against it. The Commission went on to approve a return to the workgroups previously sanctioned in the June meeting.
State-specific, scientific research to link trapping mortality to decreased beaver populations was starkly absent from the materials presented to justify the petition. OHA’s input to the Commission continues to be rooted in science-based wildlife management, an argument which resonated with those who voted against the petition’s acceptance.
ODFW staff recommended denying the petition, based on a lack of scientific evidence, a position that led petitioners to repeatedly attack ODFW staff and leadership with overt disdain, baselessly accusing them of dishonesty and ineptitude.
OHA’s testimony supported the staff recommendation to deny the petition and again called for conclusive, state-specific research regarding beaver population health before any broad-sweeping species management decisions could be made.
The tie vote constitutes a win for trappers, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts, but the fight is not over. The petitioners, having attempted and failed twice, will likely renew their efforts through a variety of angles, including legislative maneuvering and a return to the Fish and Wildlife Commission when new commissioners have been appointed.
Commissioners are appointed by the governor; therefore, advocating for hunting, fishing, and trapping representatives to be placed on the commission is extremely important to the outcome of this topic and many others ahead of us.
OHA will continue to advocate for the interests of Oregon sportsmen and sound wildlife management in these discussions.