Oregon is Putting the Skids on Children Learning About Wildlife

frog catching at the pond

I am a nature lover through and through. And that connection came from spending all of my childhood out in nature catching snakes, tadpoles and whatever else crawled by, as well as sitting quietly in the fields and woods just down the street from my house. Now, I spend my days restoring habitat for the wildlife I have grown to love. But when the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) new regulations take effect, children will no longer get to explore nature first hand.

ODFW officials are working on new regulations that will fine Oregonians for capturing native wildlife and those fines are steep. Under the proposed regulations, you will only be allowed to hold in your possession two animals of any given species unless it is on their list of protected species. And they propose to make the list of protected species much larger.

Child holding frogIf you do put animals in an aquarium to study, you will need to kill them when you are done. As a child, we would catch snakes and release them back where we found them after a few days. In the case of tadpoles, we would often rescue them from ponds that were drying up and raise them into frogs. Then we would return them to where we found them. Now children are being told they will have to kill them or face a fine of $264.

This law will affect everyone. Teachers are not excluded from this law. If they want to have students learn about amphibians and wish to have more than two tadpoles in their classroom, they will have to fill out an application and pay $25 every year for each species. Teachers are already underpaid and taxed with a lot of extra expenses for their classrooms.

And whether you are a homeowner or teacher, by applying for the permit you agree to open your house or school to inspection by a law enforcement official (OAR 635-044-0045). They do not need a warrant and they are not required to give notice. They can just show up.
Child enjoying frog catching
Don’t get me wrong. I do not disagree with the spirit of the law; namely protecting wildlife. However these regulations appear to be a little overreaching and need more input. It will cause children to become even more disconnected from nature and drive them to more television and video games. In Richard Louv’s book ‘Last Child in the Woods’, he writes about the disconnection of our children from the woods and how government over-regulation is part of the problem. We need our kids out in nature exploring and learning because children will be the future protectors of the environment.

If you want to comment on these new regulations before they become law, please contact the following people before March 4:

Dads and kids enjoying wildlifeCurt Melcher
4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE
Salem, OR 97302
ODFW Director

Holly Akenson
72531 Farmers Lane
Enterprise, OR 97828
Girl smiling with frogodfw.commission@state.or.us
Eastern Oregon Commissioner

Michael Finley
1521 Nottingham Circle
Medford, OR 97504
Western Oregon Commissioner


UPDATE: 3/11/16 In response to all the negative feedback, The Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife has waived the fee for teachers applying for a permit. While this is good news financially, the permit process is so difficult it is unlikely that many teachers will apply. And in order to bring frog eggs into the classroom, teachers will need to cut no more than two eggs out of an egg mass to avoid needing a permit. This will result in the injury or death of a dozen or more eggs that are left in the egg mass. All of this could have been avoided if ODFW had put a herpetologist and elementary school teacher on the advisory committee.

And instead of money going to buying and restoring habitat, dwindling funds will be spent on bureaucratic red tape and permits. Nothing like rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

UPDATE: 3/13/16 New language has been added to the proposed rule changes under OAR 635-044-0085: “Nothing in these rules is intended to authorize or allow the warrantless search or inspection of a permit holder’s residence.” However, under OAR 635-044-0045, they clearly state, “Inspection of the facilities may take place without warrant or notice,” So your guess is as good as mine.

I encourage everyone to continue to contact the ODFW before its too late. The commission will not vote on these new rule changes until June.




4 thoughts on “Oregon is Putting the Skids on Children Learning About Wildlife

  1. Mike,

    You should be aware that if a species is classified as protected, it is illegal for anyone “to hunt, trap, pursue, kill, take, catch, angle for, or have in possession, either dead or alive, whole or in part” (OAR 635-044-0130 (1)).

    Because “pursue” is defined as “the act of trailing, tracking, or chasing wildlife in an attempt to locate, capture, catch, tree, or kill” (OAR 635-045-0002 (57)), the act of looking for protected reptiles and amphibians is technically illegal.

    As with many regulations, determination of intent and enforcement is often up to the officer or Department official involved. If they find you looking for reptiles and amphibians, it will be pretty much their call whether they let you off or bust you. There are “nice guys”, but there are also hard-liners that will want to make an example of you. I have run into both…

  2. Because of the cost of field trips AND with the constraints of delivering more and more curriculum explicitly, bringing wildlife into the classroom is often the only way children CAN experience it! I have already heard from several teachers that they rarely, if ever, teach science. And, if they do, it is testing-specific. How sad! The fact is, most children these days do NOT go outdoors to explore and the classroom is, more-than-likely, the only place they can experience wildlife. Pay to bring in tadpoles and frogs when studying amphibians?! Killing them instead of returning them to their habitat?! How sad! At the VERY LEAST, schools should be exempt from this for the cause of learning. I hope that this law and it’s impact on schools, and children, will receive a second or third look and those attempting to pass it will see some of the implications.

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