Jim Bittle Obvious Choice For ODFW Commission
By Pat Hoglund
The fish and wildlife commissions that represent the western states were formed to represent sportsmen throughout their respective states. When decisions need to be made a panel of well-informed citizens is there to act in the best interest of everyone involved. Our commissions are in place to oversee, vet out issues, and ultimately make educated decisions that affect hunters, anglers, commercial fishermen, wildlife watchers, and anyone else who stakes a claim to the outdoors. Conceptually, the idea is sound and logical. When you start to peel back the layers of bureaucracy involved you often find it’s not fair.
Take Oregon for example. In place since 1975, Oregon’s fish and wildlife commission is made up of seven members, each one representing a region in the state. There are five region-specific commissioners and two that represent the west and east sides of the state. Each commissioner serves a four-year term and is appointed by the governor. The commissioners come from a variety of backgrounds and political persuasions. It’s not unfair to say that each commissioner has his or her own personal agenda.
In the coming months Oregon’s commission is coming to a crossroad. Jason Atkinson will not seek reappointment in District 2 leaving a void that needs to be filled with a sport fishing advocate. Not surprisingly, there are several candidates who have tossed their hat in the ring.
As it stands now the current makeup of Oregon’s fish and wildlife commission should have every Oregonian looking over their shoulder. The voting tendencies of each commissioner paints a desperate picture for sport fishing. When it came time to vote Atkinson was pro sport fishing. That was one vote in our favor. Michael Finley represents Western Oregon. His votes tend to lean toward sport fishing. That’s two votes. Bob Webber, who represents District 4, is a hunter at heart but also a good friend to sport fishermen. That’s three votes. Greg Wolley from District 3 is a wild card as is Eastern Oregon’s representative Holly Akenson. Unfortunately, they have a tendency to lean toward the two remaining commissioners, Bruce Buckmaster and Laura Anderson. Both have strong ties to the commercial fishing industry. If you’re keeping score you can see how sport fishing can be, and sometimes is, out-voted 4 to 3.
With Atkinson’s departure it’s important that someone from District 2 have strong ties to the sport fishing community. Enter Jim Bittle, President of Willie Boats in Medford, Oregon. Bittle lives in Southern Oregon making him an obvious candidate to replace Atkinson. I’ve known Jim for 25 years and I can’t think of a better commissioner to represent District 2. Like many who own businesses in the industry he knows the issues; he lives and breathes them. What’s more important is that Jim is fair, honest, methodical and level headed. He will listen and act accordingly. Given that Oregon’s commission already has two out and out commercial fishing representatives it only makes sense that someone with a sport fishing background take Atkinson’s seat on the commission.
Factor in that the ODFW is funded primarily by sport fishing dollars it only makes more sense that the commission have more sport fishing representatives deciding how the money is spent, and acting on behalf of the constituents that make up the majority of the department’s funding. What’s more, the Columbia River reforms will be coming to another vote in December, and having Bittle on the commission is paramount to keeping the gillnets off the mainstem Columbia. Sport fishermen have worked too hard to get where we are to take a step backward.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s track record of appointing commissioners leaves many with an uneasy feeling. She appointed Buckmaster earlier this year (her only appointment so far) despite an outcry from the sport fishing community. All signs indicate she likes Bittle, but it’s nothing to take for granted. Brown won’t appoint anyone until the general election ends, all the more reason to add urgency to Bittle’s appointment.
Before December rolls around you’re encouraged to send Governor Brown an email letting her know that Oregonians want fair, balanced representation on the commission and that Bittle is the obvious choice.
Conceptually, the idea is sound, logical and fair. We can only hope that Governor Brown sees it that way, too.