The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation added momentum to an effort to declare a constitutional right for Oregon citizens to hunt and fish. If successful, House Joint Resolution 5 will place an amendment to the Oregon Constitution on the 2024 ballot.
In part, the resolution reads as follows: Residents of this state have the right to fish, hunt or harvest wildlife and gather wild foods by traditional methods or manners, subject only to laws enacted by the Legislative Assembly and rules adopted by state agencies to promote sound wildlife conservation and management. The right to fish, hunt or harvest wildlife and gather wild foods is a valued part of Oregon’s heritage and shall be forever preserved.
Dave Wiley, long-time member and Oregon lead volunteer representing the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, testified before the Oregon House Committee on Rules.
“RMEF strongly recommends House Joint Resolution 5 and its amendment for the committee’s full, unqualified support, approval and passage to the full house,” Wiley testified. “Hunting is very important to Oregonians. They value it. In modern times, somewhat less people are involved in it, however I submit to you that none of us would be here today if we didn’t have some ancestors that hunted, fish and gathered from the land. Modern scientific regulation of hunting provide sustainable wildlife populations and wildlife for the future. If it wasn’t for hunters, you wouldn’t have elk, bison, whitetail deer or wild turkey, as we know them today. It’s hunters that sponsored management that brought them back from the brink of disaster.”
Wiley highlighted how hunters conserve and open public access to landscapes by telling the committee about a recent RMEF priority project in northeast Oregon. In late 2021, RMEF, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Manulife Investment Management’s timberland business conserved and opened access to more than 4,600 acres of wildlife and riparian habitat, significantly expanding the Minam River Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Phase two of the project is tentatively scheduled to close in the fall of 2023. It would add nearly 11,000 more acres to the WMA.
As another example, Wiley mentioned the 2013 John Day Headwaters project, also in northeast Oregon, that transformed more than 13,000 acres of a confusing checkerboard ownership pattern of alternating private and public sections into one consolidated block of public ownership under management of the U.S. Forest Service, which remains open for public access.
“That was all hunter-sponsored and largely funded through hunters. The protection of the right to hunt is important as it was pointed out,” Wiley emphasized.
RMEF has more than 14,000 members and a long and successful conservation resume in Oregon.
Dating back to 1986, RMEF and its partners completed 1,034 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects across the state with a combined value of more than $79.3 million. Those projects conserved and enhanced 865,637 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 139,655 acres.
Go here to view Wiley’s RMEF-supported testimony, beginning at 35:55.
So far, 23 states adopted constitutional provisions protecting the right to hunt, fish and trap.
(Photo credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)