June 25, 2008

Opinions Wanted on Marine Reserves

By Winston Ross, The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.

Jun. 23--FLORENCE -- It's time for the public to weigh in, and there's little doubt that's exactly what's going to happen, given the controversial nature of the topic: marine reserves.

After suffering a bruising few months of criticism, Gov. Ted Kulongoski has revamped his plan to create a series of ocean areas declared off-limits to fishing and other impact activities.

He'd initially set a tight timeline that would have led to marine reserves being dedicated by this spring.

But widespread public backlash prompted the governor to rethink the process. Many Oregon coastal communities objected to the fishing restrictions, especially given the hard times the fishing industry is already enduring.

In March, he issued an executive order that called for marine reserve nominations beginning next week through the end of September, the sites to be mulled by an advisory council after that and narrowed down to nine.

But before anything becomes law, there's the matter of funding for enforcement and research, which the governor will seek from the 2009 Legislature.

"The funding needs to be secured for anything else to occur," said Cristen Don, marine reserves project leader with the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.

To start the nomination process, the state is hosting five meetings next week on the coast and in Salem to let people know about the changes in the proposal and how they can suggest certain sites.

The meetings are all from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The dates:

--Today: Best Western Agate Beach Inn, 3019 North Coast Highway, Newport

--Tuesday: Oregon Department of Forestry, Tillamook District Conference Room, 5005 Third St., Tillamook

--Wednesday: Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife Headquarters, Commission Room, 3406 Cherry Ave. NE., Salem

--Thursday: North Bend Public Library, 1800 Sherman Ave., North Bend

--Friday: Gold Beach Resort Conference Center, 29232 Ellensburg on Highway 101, Gold Beach

For more information, contact Jeff Feldner, Oregon Sea Grant Extension, (541) 574-6537 Ext. 33, or Cristen Don, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, (541) 867-4741.


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