Wildlife Commissioner Sets Double Standard for Conservation, Insults Public's "Intellect"

As a recap--in February, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to uplist the murrelet to ‘endangered’ under the state Endangered Species Act, then without any public notice, in June reversed their previous decision. 

To make matters worse, they also delayed adopting mandatory management guidelines which would ensure the survivability of the murrelet. Just last week, Commissioners were tasked with adopting these survival guidelines, but before public testimony began, Chair Finley decided to preemptively reprimand, scold, or otherwise threaten members of the public who waited all day to testify. 

Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Chair, Mike Finley:

And if you decide that you want to use your 3 minutes to do that, I will stop you. And if you continue, Captain Samuels will remove you from the room. In case someone has it in the back of their mind that they’re going to engage in civil disobedience, that’s fine. That’s what the parking lot’s for. Okay. With that, let’s start.

Soon after, Commissioner Greg Wolley asked the Chair to clarify his comments, rightly pointing out that previous hearings had not included similar peremptory warnings. In fact, at the previous Commission hearing in Baker City, logging interests were allowed to testify without any restrictions or threats, even though their comments were not germane to the discussion at hand. Finley refused to acknowledge that he was creating a double standard, and once again went on to attack the “intellect” of the public participating in the hearing.

I would have done it in the June meeting also. Um, our respect for people’s time. It’s not how many times we hear the voice, it’s the intellect behind the voice. And I’ve said this many times, we move the commission with intellect and your understanding of an issue that is different than what’s given.

 

Chair Finley’s then engaged in a shouting match with members of the public who were rightly upset that many had waited hours to make their voices heard only to be insulted by a public servant.

This behavior on the part of an ODFW commissioner, while abhorrent, is not an aberration. The disrespect and mistreatment of members of the public who take time out of their busy schedules to speak up about imperiled native fish and wildlife is increasingly becoming the norm. The blatant double standard is unacceptable: if you’re a rancher advocating for more killing of wolves, you’re treated with respect; if you’re a commercial gillnet fisherman advocating for killing more salmon, you’re treated with dignity; if you’re a timber company representative advocating for fewer protections for the marbled murrelet, the stage is yours; however, if you’re a citizen advocating for protection of the state’s fish and wildlife, expect to be dismissed.  

This pattern of disrespectful behavior speaks to a broken wildlife agency in desperate need of reform. It is a symptom of a political system that rewards entitlement seats to specific interests while trying to sideline the role of science and the broader public in developing policy. Until we take a hard look at who the Governor and legislators appoint to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, we can expect this culture of public mistreatment to continue.    

Please use your voice to let Governor Brown know that we need her voice. If you’re upset about this conduct and double standard, leave a message at (503) 378-4582 or online.