2024 Legislative Recap

by Quinn Read, Conservation Director; Joe Liebezeit, Assistant Director of Statewide Conservation; and Micah Meskel, Assistant Director of Urban Conservation

The 2024 short legislative session concluded on March 7 after a month of frantic politicking. We want to thank all of you who weighed in with your legislators on behalf of nature. It takes sustained effort to move the needle in the legislature, and we couldn’t do it without you. Your advocacy and engagement is what makes Bird Alliance of Oregon so effective.

Marine Reserves (HB 4132)

Let’s start with a victory! The marine reserves bill—a priority for us and our colleagues in the Oregon Ocean Alliance—made it across the finish line with bipartisan support. This bill strengthens Oregon’s Marine Reserves Program and sets the stage for eventual consideration of additional marine reserves in Oregon (this is where we drum our fingers together in an entirely non-sinister fashion as we hatch our plans).

Oregon’s Marine Reserves were designated in 2012 and cover about 9% of our state waters. These underwater sea parks limit fishing and extraction to protect marine resources and biodiversity and act as natural laboratories to understand how our ocean is impacted by stressors like climate change.

Affordable Housing (SB 1537)

Now we move on to the “most improved” category. The governor’s housing bill passed—and represents a critically important step toward addressing the state’s housing crisis. Our concerns related to proposed rollbacks of environmental protections to encourage development, and the chipping away at Oregon’s vaunted land-use system through Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) expansions. While we successfully advocated to keep environmental protections intact, we were not as successful with respect to UGB expansions. Although the proposed UGB expansion was reduced, cities are given a one-time opportunity to sidestep state land-use laws, allowing larger cities to bring in 100 acres, and smaller cities to bring in 50 acres.

Tackling Oregon’s housing crisis will take collaboration across sectors and stakeholders, and robust, sustained, and focused investment. We remain committed to advancing creative solutions to achieve our housing goals without compromising the urban ecosystems that our wildlife depend upon and that make our cities safer, cooler, and more climate resilient.

Wildlife Omnibus Bill (HB 4147)

That leaves us with the “hmph, it’s a mixed bag” category. The wildlife omnibus bill was designed as a must-pass package to advance wildlife conservation priorities supported by a diverse array of stakeholders. In the end, the legislature did not pass the bill intact. While programs to address chronic wasting disease and invasive species were funded, the coexistence program was not. The intent of this important program is to reduce conflicts and promote coexistence between humans and wildlife through outreach, education, training, and support for legally permitted wildlife rehabilitators. We’re not done, though. In the coming months, we’ll be advocating to make sure the coexistence package makes it into the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s budget. And we’ll be ready to take another crack at it in 2025.

Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission

The legislature will consider candidates for the Fish and Wildlife Commission during September legislative days. With a new seat to fill and several reappointments, this is bound to be a contentious process. We will be watchdogging and advocating for diverse candidates committed to conservation, science, and meaningful public engagement.

Next Steps

Somehow, it’s already time to start preparing for the 2025 legislative session. No rest for the wicked and whatnot. Our team is hard at work building support for our priorities—including those that didn’t make it all the way this time, and some exciting new ones we’ve got cooking.

Please stay tuned for ways you can get involved and learn more about these issues in the coming months.