June 10, 2019

Oregon: Anti-Poaching Legislation Championed by Sportsmen’s Caucus Leaders Heads to Governor

Contact: Aoibheann Cline, Western States Coordinator

On May 31, the Oregon Senate voted unanimously to pass HB 3035, an anti-poaching bill, that increases the maximum penalty for certain wildlife law offenses. The legislation increases penalties for offenses committed without a culpable state of mind to a Class A misdemeanor ($2,000 fine) and increases the maximum penalty for certain wildlife law offenses committed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly to a Class C felony (up to 5 years imprisonment, $125,000 maximum fine, or both).

This bill seeks to address egregious and serial poaching incidents. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) reported poachers killed more mule deer than legal hunters during a six-year study of radio-collared deer in south-central Oregon.

HB 3035 now awaits Governor Kate Brown’s signature. This bill was sponsored by Oregon Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Brad Witt and Caucus Member Representative Ken Helm.  The importance of this bill in protecting Oregon’s wildlife prompted a “Blaze Orange Alert” from the Oregon Sportsmen’s Caucus, signaling its official position of support. Rep. Witt also serves as a member of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council.

“House Bill 3035 provides law enforcement with the tools necessary to deter intentional poaching sprees, and it was carefully crafted to ensure it does not penalize simple misidentifications and mistakes,” said Rep. Helm.

HB 3035 also passed out of the House of Representatives on a near unanimous vote (58-2), showing Oregon’s strong bi-partisan commitment to conserving its wildlife resources and providing fair and ethical pursuit opportunities for sportsmen and women.

The passage of HB 3035 follows previous successes by the Oregon legislature in addressing wildlife law violations through the passage of HB 4046, HB 4030, HB 3158, and HB 2883. In 2016, HB 4046 was passed allowing increased damages for the unlawful taking of wildlife and “allowed the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to file suit for the recovery civil for the unlawful taking or killing of any of the listed wildlife.” However, a court decision in 2017 found that the current law was not clear enough to require restitution to be paid to ODFW. Thus, in 2018, Oregon passed HB 4030 to resolve the technical issue addressed by the courts and clearly authorized courts to require wildlife law violators to pay a portion of, or all, fines incurred from the unlawful taking of wildlife, to the ODFW. HB 3158 and HB 2883 were both passed in 2017. HB 3158 required ODFW to implement a program to encourage the reporting of wildlife violations. HB 2883 provided for the revocation of licenses, tags, and permits for wildlife law violators, if the violation occurred while the person was acting or pretending to act as a guide or outfitter.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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