As Oregon’s newest fish and wildlife commissioner Jim Bittle is approaching the position with caution. He understands that it comes with great responsibility and that many sport anglers in Oregon are hopeful he’ll be able to make a difference.
“I don’t see myself as a big driving force in the beginning but I want to be as we move forward,” he told Salmon & Steelhead Journal. “As far as my knowledge of issues, it will definitely be a lot of listening. The good Lord gave me two ears and one mouth and I’ll use them proportionately. If I’m going to use my mouth I’m going to make sure I have some substance behind it.”
Bittle, 62, was recently appointed to the commission to replace Jason Atkinson. Bittle is owner and president of Willie Boats, based out of Central Point, Oregon.
Bittle’s appointment comes on the heels of Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s appointment of Bruce Buckmaster, who’s ties to the commercial gillnet industry are well documented. That is arguably the most important topic facing Bittle. The Columbia River Reforms were to fully implemented by 2017. However, Oregon’s fish and wildlife commission voted to block the plan’s implementation by one year. It is a contentious topic and one of the most important issues currently facing sport fishing in the Pacific Northwest.
It is believed that Bittle will be a voice for sport fishing on a commission that has leaned toward commercial gillnet fishing. For a detailed report, refer to Salmon & Steelhead Journal’s Feb-March 2017 issue (Vol. 14, Issue 1) on page 28. The good news is that Bittle comes at the position with a solid understanding and appreciation for salmon and steelhead fishing and what each means to the state of Oregon. Below are some excerpts from an interview with Bittle following his appointment to the commission.
— Pat Hoglund
Q: Are you at all intimidated with the responsibility and the position?
A: Yes. I will enjoy the challenges but will be very cautious on all decisions.
Q: Will you allow your position as owner of a boat company influence your decisions as a fish and wildlife commissioner?
A: No. Selling another boat isn’t why I sought this position. It’s about taking care of our resources for our future generations.
Q: You have been appointed at a time when the Columbia River Reforms are on the minds of most salmon anglers in the Pacific Northwest. How will you approach this topic?
A: Fully alert to try and understand both sides to cast my vote in an educated fashion.
Q: Issues that are presented to the commission are often political. Knowing that, how will you approach the politics that is often played within the commission itself?
A: They will frustrate me. I don’t do politics well coming from the private sector but will have to endure the process.
Q: Looking at the commission and its past decisions, it appears that sport fishing often takes a back seat to other groups. Are you prepared to put sport fishing at the front of your decision-making process?
A: That is my interest to continue opportunities for all anglers young and old.
Q: One complaint that is often heard is that the commission rarely considers what the sport fishing community has to say. What is your response, and how will you address those concerns?
A: I really can’t answer that without experiencing the work on the Commission to see how the process works. I would hope that wouldn’t be the case but will definitely be aware of this situation.
Q: How will you use your position to help recruit younger people into the outdoors?
A: Got to get indoctrinated to figure how to do it and trust me I will.
Q: At the end of your first term how do you expect to be perceived by the anglers of Oregon?
A: One that listened and tried to meet all needs that were best for them and the resource.
Q: Here’s your chance to send a message to salmon and steelhead anglers in the state. What would you like them to know about you?
A: That I care and would be thought of as an individual that listened. I didn’t realize how much I cared about our future until I started taking my grandkids fishing and enjoyed the looks on their face when they caught fish.