SALEM — The Oregon Senate voted this week to confirm two members of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission whom Gov. Kate Brown reappointed in April.
The move was a reversal from earlier this year, when the Senate Committee on Rules delayed action on the two reappointments over concerns that commissioners had failed to adequately oversee the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife budget. The sport fishing industry and cattle ranchers had also called for the governor to appoint commissioners who represented their perspectives. Commissioners are appointed to represent Oregon’s congressional districts.
The Senate voted 22-8 on Wednesday to confirm the two re-appointees, Holly Akenson of Enterprise, and Michael Finley of Medford. Akenson is a wildlife biologist, manages a tree farm with her husband and is an archery and rifle big game hunter, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website. Finley is president of a grant-making foundation, and previously served as superintendent of Yellowstone, Yosemite and Everglades national parks. He is also a hunter and angler.
Ahead of the vote Wednesday, Senate Republicans said they had been under the impression Brown would reconsider the reappointments.
The Senate voted in May to confirm two other controversial appointees to the commission, Astoria resident Bruce Buckmaster who has ties to the commercial gillnet fishing industry and former state lawmaker Jason Atkinson of Jacksonville.
“You cannot continue to load the board with philosophical people that represent the big cities,” said state Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton. “It does not work ... The legislature deserves a lot of the credibility for this agency going down the toilet, and the governor deserves a lot of credibility for this agency going down the toilet. I urge a ‘no’ vote.”
Girod’s language displeased Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.
“Sen. Ted Ferrioli, try not using the word toilet, please,” Courtney said, as the Senate minority leader from John Day prepared to speak.
Ferrioli said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s budget trouble is an indication the commission has not fulfilled its fiduciary responsibility.
“But there’s another issue here, and that is the credibility of the governor and the credibility of the appointments secretary,” Ferrioli said. “Members who voted unanimously (in committee) for the last round of appointments to ODFW did so on the assurance there would be consideration of a sport fishing member and a landowner. That did not happen. That to me is a breach of confidence and a sort of a disconnect between credibility of the governor and the expectation that her asks will be respected.”
Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, said Akenson and Finley do represent hunters and anglers.
“I think the two people you have in front of you today to vote on are incredibly qualified,” Beyer said. “One of them indeed is a property owner and an agricultural person. Perhaps small scale, perhaps not the one people wanted, but she does meet that qualification.”
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