The Senate Committee on Rules reviewed a long list of appointments for Boards and Commissions on May 8. Discussions around the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission (OFWC) appointments have been heated.

For the seven-member commission, Governor Kate Brown nominated five candidates with diverse experiences and backgrounds to fill the current vacancies. Included in her list of nominees were the following:

  • Former Tillamook County Commissioner Mark Labhart– 30 years of service with the Oregon Department of Forestry and now lives in Sisters.
  • Rob Spelbrink– commercial fisherman who also has experience as a hunter and sport-fishing guide from Siletz.
  • Mary Wahl– former environmental regulator at DEQ and Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services from Langlois.
  • Jill Zarnowitz– former regional biologist and administrator in Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife who also owns a vineyard and winery from Yamhill.
  • James NashMarine Corps veteran, rancher, outfitter, and hunter from Enterprise.

Due to political circumstances, Senate leadership withdrew James Nash from the appointment list. Now, only four of the five vacancies will be filled in this appointment process.

Deputy Communications Director for Governor Brown Kate Kondayen is quoted in a recent Oregon Public Broadcasting article on the appointment process “Governor Brown’s approach to board and commission appointments is to keep a balance of diverse experiences and backgrounds to ensure the concerns of all Oregonians, urban and rural, are reflected in the state’s work,” Kondayen said. “Those considerations include subject matter expertise, and in this case, regional representation, which is a specific requirement in filling seats for the OFWC. All of these requirements add complexity and challenge into composing a commission that represents a wide variety of Oregonians.”

Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) is supportive of the approach the Governor and her team took to create balance on this important Commission. AOC Commissioners engaged in natural resources policy have expressed disappointment with the removal of James Nash from the slate of OFWC appointees, and feel his broad experience would have brought a critical perspective to the Commission. OFWC sets policy and programs relating to management and conservation of fish and wildlife resources including establishing seasons, methods and limits for recreational and commercial take. OFW Commissioners must be appointed from each congressional district and one must be from east and one must be from west of the Cascades.

OFWC appointments moved from the Senate Committee on Rules and will soon be voted on on the Senate floor likely en bloc and without further contention.

Contributed by: Megan Chuinard | Public Affairs Associate