Stop the Oregon Legislature from Cutting a Backroom Deal on Oregon’s State Bird

Today the Oregon Legislature House Rules Committee did a complete run around the public process. They held a last minute hearing with no public notice and no public testimony on SCR-18 which would designate the Osprey as Oregon’s official bird. They did this despite hearing from thousands of Oregonians who opposed SCR-18 and despite providing repeated assurances that the bill was dead in recent weeks.

A photo of a Western Meadowlark in flight.
Western Meadowlark, photo by Scott Carpenter

One has to wonder why the legislature is even spending time and resources talking about this issue. Year after year, the legislature has failed to pass important bills aimed at providing adequate funding for Oregon’s declining bird populations. When it comes to protecting our state’s birds, our legislature has a long track record of failure.

While there were a few significant environmental bills that passed the legislature this session, it was more notable for the major environmental bills that failed to move forward including important legislation on climate change, air toxics, state forest practices act reform and yes, wildlife funding. Rather than focusing on critical environmental issues, the legislature instead decided to revisit the debate over whether the Osprey should replace the Meadowlark as Oregon’s State Bird. It is a sad commentary on the environmental priorities (or lack thereof) of the Oregon Legislature.

In the waning hours of the session, was the legislature concerned about the toxins in the air we breath? The threat of climate change? Or providing adequate funding for protecting wildlife in our state? NO. They instead prioritized moving forward a bill, sponsored by a legislator with one of the worst environmental voting records, that would designate his personal preference as an official symbol of Oregon.

The amended bill that ultimately moved forward is better than the original proposal—it designates the Osprey as Oregon’s official state raptor and retains the Meadowlark as its official state songbird, rather than replacing the Meadowlark entirely. Both are incredible birds but the Meadowlark was designated after a statewide contest in 1927 in which over 70,000 school children voted. The Osprey was designated with zero public engagement, based on a backroom deal. The legislature ignored requests from the public to conduct an outreach effort to allow the public to weigh in on the selection of this symbol.

On Wednesday, SCR-18 heads to the floor of the House for final passage. Please take a few minutes and send Oregon Representatives an email asking them to vote no on SCR-18.