May 13, 2024

New Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Announced

Article Contact: Marie Neumiller,

Why It Matters: After serving as Director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) for ten years, Curt Melcher retired from his role with the department. The search for the next Director started in January 2024 immediately following Director Melcher’s announcement. The ODFW Commission announced finalists on May 3, 2024. Both candidates were interviewed at a public meeting on Friday May 10, 2024, and after a full day of deliberations the commission voted to extend an offer of employment to Debbie Colbert.


  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has worked closely with our Oregon Sportsmen’s Legislative Caucus Co-Chairs and the Oregon Sportsmen’s Conservation Partnership to engage in the process, highlighting the need for a commitment to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
  • After a day of deliberations, Debbie Colbert was selected to be the next Director for ODFW.
  • Prior to her appointment, Debbie Colbert, served as the ODFW Deputy Director in charge of the Fish and Wildlife Program

As the top leadership position, the Director sets the tone and focus for the entire Department of Fish and Wildlife, which employs over 1,000 professionals. The Director is tasked with guiding staff through often contentious conservation issues. Topics like predator management, habitat conservation, hunting and fishing seasons, gear requirements, and ESA compliance just skim the surface of everything covered by ODFW. The new Director will play a pivotal role in Oregon’s fish, wildlife, and habitat, as well as opportunities for sportsmen and women. A public Q&A along with executive session interviews for the Director position were conducted on Friday May 10, 2024. After a full day of deliberations, the commission returned from executive session where they voted to extend an offer of employment to Debbie Colbert. Director Colbert will be the first woman to serve in the top role for ODFW since its creation.

Debbie Colbert has served as the Deputy Director of ODFW since 2021 tasked with overseeing fish, wildlife, habitat, and regional programs. In addition, Deputy Director Colbert has worked on legislative engagement, including a three-month special assignment to the Governor’s Natural Resources Office in 2023. With a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary oceanography, Debbie has served in Oregon for more than two decades, including multiple roles with ODFW.

Prior to Friday’s vote, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation had worked closely with the Oregon Sportsmen’s Legislative Caucus Co-Chairs, and the Oregon Sportsmen’s Conservation Partnership to support Debbie Colbert’s nomination. Believing that she would be the best candidate. Our goal was to ensure that the sportsmen’s voice is represented in both the recruitment process and the future of ODFW.

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