Bird Alliance of Oregon 2023 Update on Legislative Conservation Priorities

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

We are two-thirds of the way through the 2023 legislative “long session” and are happy to report that many of the priority bills and budget requests we are advocating for are still alive. This is a miraculous accomplishment given where we are in the session.

Thanks to your public comments, the bills we highlight below have made it through to a Joint Legislative Committee where there will be consideration of amendments, budgetary impact, and an eventual up or down vote. This next step may be the biggest challenge, as we are in an austerity budget and there are many competing interests vying for a slice of the state budget pie.

Please stay tuned on how you can continue to advocate in the final months of session to support legislation that helps wildlife and the habitats they rely on.

A photo of two Black Oystercatchers searching for food on the rocky shores.
Black Oystercatcher, photo by Scott Carpenter

Priority Bills

    • House Bill 2903 (Marine Reserves)

Oregon’s marine reserves are coastal treasures. These living laboratories protect habitat, strengthen resilience to climate change, and contribute important science-based management to communities dependent on ocean resources. This bill would bolster the current marine reserves program by enabling more robust ecological and socioeconomic monitoring and ensuring that communities are engaged in future marine reserve planning.

    • SB 530 (Natural Climate Solutions)

This bill would set Oregon on a course to help achieve its long-term climate change goals by directing state agencies to develop tangible carbon sequestration objectives, leverage federal funds, and provide incentives to landowners to adopt management practices that lock carbon in the ecosystem with the co-benefit of enhancing wildlife habitat.

    • HB 3016 (Community Green Infrastructure Grant Program)

Creates a new statewide green infrastructure program to plant and protect tree canopy in heat-vulnerable areas across the state. It would include a grant program to fund community-led projects, native-plant nursery support, tree-canopy threat mitigation and assistance, and related workforce development.

    • HB 3222 (High Desert Partnership Funding) & HB 3099 (Chewaucan Basin/Lake Abert Collaborative)

These two bills would bolster efforts we are engaged in to protect some of the most important migratory bird staging grounds in the Pacific Flyway. If passed, HB 3222 would secure $2 million to continue collaborative work in Harney County, including at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the Silvies floodplain—places that support half the world’s population of Ross’s Geese and 20% of the White-faced Ibis population. Flood irrigation enhancement that is part of this work also benefits the local economy and ranchers. HB 3099 sets up a new collaborative process aimed to balance water needs for agricultural operations, communities, and the ecological health of Lake Abert, which annually hosts tens of thousands of migrating phalaropes and American Avocets.

    • HB 3202 (Night Sky Protection Act)

Our night sky is an invaluable resource worth protecting! Thoughtful lighting design is critical for wildlife and human health, minimizing energy waste, managing climate change, and preserving our view of the stars. Many local jurisdictions have taken steps to protect their skies, and this bill would show the state’s leadership by requiring lighting on state property to follow best practices, including: being fully shielded, 3000K or below color temperature and no brighter than necessary.

A group of people on intertidal rocks smiling at the camera.

Agency Budget Funding Requests

    • Outreach and Community Engagement Project Leader for ODFW’s Marine Reserve Program.

This key position is a critical connection point between coastal communities, Oregonians that visit the coast, and marine reserves—and instrumental to the successful implementation of the Marine Reserve Program

    • ODFW staff for establishment of a Wildlife Coexistence Program.

This package requests five biologist positions to expand education and outreach efforts focused on the urban/suburban environments on how to interact with wildlife and avoid conflicts, work with local governments, community groups, schools, etc., and provide training sessions for those groups, law enforcement, animal control, and others. They would also assist local rehabbers with understanding rules for holding and proper treatment of wildlife, conduct facility inspections, and assist with permitting.


Bills We’re Opposing

Unfortunately, some really terrible bills have been put forward this session, but we are doing our best to stop them. Here are a few that are perhaps the most concerning:

    • HB 3382 (Bad Ports Land Use Bill)

This bill would eliminate land use review of dredging and development proposals in the state’s five deepwater ports. This sets a dangerous precedent, with a full range of local and state regulations that could be waived should the bill pass, from public involvement requirements to protections for floodplains and wetlands. The bill’s passage would pose a serious threat to Oregon’s largest estuaries, ecologically vital habitat where careful land use review is especially important. Current proposed amendments do nothing to ameliorate these concerns.

    • SB 795, HB 3283, and HB 3585 (Timber industry attack on the HCP process)

A series of bills are attempting to undermine the multiyear process that public and federal partners have worked on to develop a balanced Habitat Conservation Plan protecting fish and wildlife habitat on state forests while ensuring timber harvest and funding for rural services. The timber industry is trying to derail the HCP, which would interfere in a public process to update forest management plans and would increase clear-cutting in critical fish and wildlife habitat.

We are working with other partners to fight these bad bills and hopefully kill them. We will need the power of our supporters and members to help. Stay tuned for opportunities to help move the needle to better protect our wildlife and habitats across the state.