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Oregon anglers would like to get more bang for their two bucks.

Byline: INSIDE THE OUTDOORS By Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

The $2 surcharge collected on hunting licenses in Oregon recently received positive publicity in this space, thanks to several deals with private landowners who - for a price - agreed to allow the public to hunt on their lands.

Opening the gate to several thousand acres of prime mule deer and chukar habitat makes it easy for hunters to visualize what they're getting for the two bucks they paid into the Access and Habitat Fund.

But what about fisherfolk? What do they get for the $2 surcharge they've been paying since 1989?

There are more licensed anglers than hunters in Oregon, meaning more money is channeled every year into the Fisheries Restoration and Enhancement Fund. The state collected about $3.1 million for that program in the two-year budget period ending June 30.

But the results produced by spending the fisheries surcharge money is seldom as easy for ordinary anglers to appreciate, or as headline-grabbing, as the big hunting-access deals.

A key word in the angling surcharge program is "restoration." Doing something to restore a fish population can be spendy and difficult to see unless you're a fish - or do a lot of snorkeling.

Take for example, the only Eugene-area item on the list of 26 projects totaling $1.9 million recently recommended by the Restoration and Enhancement Board and approved by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The project is a cooperative effort involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Willamette National Forest as well as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The commission authorized spending $31,632 of R&E money to help finance a $75,000 project that will place gravel in several small tributaries to the Middle Fork Willamette River above Oakridge.

A helicopter will transport gravel from a staging site to several remote locations. In some places, the helicopter will place the gravel directly in the stream. In other spots, it will stockpile gravel near the stream for later hand-spreading by volunteers.

The point of this aerial dump truck operation is to further the reintroduction of bull trout back into the Middle Fork Willamette watershed.

Bull trout fingerling from the McKenzie River watershed have been transplanted into streams above Hills Creek Reservoir.

But there apparently is a shortage of gravel beds in those streams, at least in the rugged sections where the water is cold enough to meet the bull trout's very particular spawning requirements.

Bull trout are a protected species, and the focus of a long and expensive restoration effort. It's illegal to keep a bull trout caught anywhere in Western Oregon. (The only Oregon waterway where it is legal to retain bull trout is Lake Billy Chinook, near Madras.)

Even if the Middle Fork tributary spawning gravel project succeeds, it's unlikely that additional recreational angling opportunity will result. And that's fine. Saving a native species is a worthy restoration project.

But it certainly illustrates how income from the surcharge can be spent in ways that leave anglers wondering where their money went.

The same is true of the several fish "monitoring" projects on the latest R&E list, at $75,000 or more apiece. And how excited can anglers really get over spending $206,000 on "tilt drain construction" at Elk River Hatchery?

Such projects sound more like ordinary Fish Division operating expenses than something special or extra, as the surcharge implies.

Extras like chipping in $70,000 to help feed fish in volunteer-run Salmon Trout Enhancement Program hatcheries. Or awarding $218,578 to the Youngs Bay Terminal Fishery project (which rears salmon in net pens).

Those projects imply that more fish will be available to catch down the line - fish that wouldn't be there without the license surcharge. Most anglers would probably like to see more projects like that.

Mike Stahlberg can be reached at
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 23, 2005
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