Bird Alliance of Oregon 2023 Legislative Conservation Priorities

by Joe Liebezeit, Interim Statewide Conservation Director, and Micah Meskel, Interim Urban Conservation Director

The 2023 Oregon legislative session kicked off its biannual “long session” with thousands of bills in play. As in years past we will be tracking bills to support and oppose for the next several months until the session ends in June. The legislative session can be quite a roller coaster ride, with some bills dying early but then rejuvenating later in the session in the form of riders and amendments on Christmas tree bills as the session nears its end. We are into the first weeks and the pace is already fast, with many bill hearings underway. Bird Alliance of Oregon is prioritizing several important bills and budget requests that will advance protections for wildlife and habitats and help combat climate change.

Black Oystercatchers, Western Gulls at Three Arch Rocks at Cape Meare
Photo by Roy W. Lowe/USFWS

Our top priorities for the 2023 legislative session are passing legislation to support Oregon’s Marine Reserves and Marine Protected Areas through a more robust program; mandating Oregon to move forward to fight climate change while protecting key habitats; and passing legislation to facilitate safe passage of millions of birds during their nocturnal migration. This legislation builds on years of effort by Bird Alliance of Oregon staff including former conservation director Bob Sallinger, who deserves much credit in moving this work forward. Both interim conservation directors will be leading Bird Alliance of Oregon’s efforts at the legislature along with a contract lobbyist.

  • House Bill 2903 – Oregon Marine Reserves Program: Builds on current Marine Reserve Program’s decadal assessment and legislative recommendations. Requires ODFW to develop an adaptive management and social monitoring program in an uncertain climate future. Funds three new positions to bolster ecological and socioeconomic monitoring.
  • Senate Bill 530 – Natural Climate Solutions: Positions Oregon to leverage federal funding and private investments in natural climate solutions on working lands (i.e., activities that sequester carbon like protecting mature and old-growth forests, planting more trees in urban areas, etc.). Directs state agencies to develop carbon sequestration targets and provide incentives and technical support to forest owners and farmers to implement natural climate solutions.
  • House Bill 3202 – Safe Night Skies: Directs the State of Oregon to adopt measures to reduce unnecessary, wasteful, and excessive outdoor artificial light on publicly funded projects that may interfere with wildlife, climate, human health and dark sky tourism.

Legislation and budget requests we are supporting in this session either directly or through the Oregon Wildlife Coalition:

  • ODFW Budget Policy Option Package – Wildlife Coexistence Funding Package: $3 million package to promote wildlife stewardship, reduce human-wildlife conflicts, support wildlife rehabilitation efforts, and protect Oregon’s wildlife. The proposed Wildlife Coexistence Program would fund five biologists and a communications coordinator focused on stakeholder engagement, the Living with Wildlife educational campaign, and a grants program to support wildlife rehabilitation centers.
  • House Bill 3016 – Creates a new statewide green infrastructure program to plant and protect tree canopy in heat-vulnerable areas across the state. The program includes a grant program to fund community-led projects, native plant nursery support, tree canopy threat mitigation and assistance, and related workforce development.
  • House Bill 3222 – $2 million legislative request to continue collaborative work in Harney County to move forward innovative initiatives that support this region as a world-class migratory bird staging area while benefiting local ranchers and communities.
  • House Bill 3159 – Recovering Oregon’s Wildlife Fund: Raises the state Transient Lodging Tax by 1.5% to pay for fish, wildlife, and habitat recovery and restoration across the state.

Bills we are opposing that would harm wildlife:

  • HJR 5 – Establishing a new Constitutional Right to Hunt and Fish: HJR 5 could prevent Oregon citizens from using the ballot initiative to protect wildlife.

At the time this was published, it appears most of our priorities are advancing, but there could be twists and turns in the road ahead. By the time this issue reaches your mailbox, a third of the session will have passed and we are likely to be in the midst of a push to get our bills and budget requests across the finish line. Stay tuned for a flurry of action alerts, and please send emails to legislators—it will make a big difference in a crowded session with an austerity budget.