Mr. Roy Elicker, Director
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE
Salem, OR 97302
Dear Mr. Elicker:
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers was formed here in Oregon ten years ago by like-minded sportsmen and women who want to preserve our heritage of hunting and fishing for future generations. Our mission is simple and straight-forward – we work to protect wild public lands, waters, and wildlife. In that decade, our membership has spread to all fifty states. BHA now has 17 chapters covering 97% of all public lands in America. We also have an active chapter in British Columbia. In our conservation efforts, we seek balance and work to educate and collaborate on important conservation issues impacting hunters and anglers.
With this background, we are writing to call attention to a growing concern among our membership – the use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) for the purpose of locating, spotting, or hunting big game, upland birds, and other species. As champions of fair chase, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers opposes any such use of UAV’s for this purpose. Our full position statement can be viewed here:
Under current Oregon General Big Game Hunting Regulations contained on page 27, the ODFW regulation on UAV’s states that individuals cannot “hunt within eight hours of communicating or receiving information on the location of game mammals from an aircraft. For the purposes of this rule, “aircraft” includes unmanned aircraft such as drones.” While we commend ODFW for addressing the issue in its regulations, we find the language inadequate, unenforceable, and susceptible to abuse. Other states such as Colorado and Montana leave no question that UAV’s are prohibited for both scouting and hunting. In Montana, the language is clear. “The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for the purpose of locating, spotting, or hunting big game, upland birds or other species under the management authority of FWP during commission-established hunting seasons is prohibited.” In Colorado the language is also clear. “A person shall not use a drone as an aid to look for, scout, or detect wildlife or use as an aid in the hunting or taking of wildlife.”
The Oregon Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers suggests similar language should be adopted by ODFW that strictly prohibits this practice. We also suggest eliminating the “eight hours” qualifying time frame for such practices as contained in the current regulation. While the time frame of eight hours may be legal as specified for manned aircraft sightings, we feel it is unacceptable for UAV’s, due to their ease of use, stealth, and ubiquity. UAV’s should be addressed separately from manned aircraft. Except for bona fide research and management practices, drones or UAV’s have no place in fair chase hunting under any circumstances.
BHA also believes the time for stronger action and regulation is now. The UAV market is exploding and is expected to become the most dynamic growth sector in the aerospace industry – including the civilian market. According to a Teal Group market study, worldwide expenditures in the UAV market are expected to increase from $5.9 billion to $11.3 billion annually and double over the next decade. This growth and availability are enabling a robust civilian consumer market for drones. One only has to check YouTube to see hundreds of “Go Pro” videos taken from drones.
We have also recently seen the adverse impact of drones on big game in Zion National Park in Utah where their use is illegal. It has been documented that Big Horn sheep have been disrupted and spooked by drones. In a recent article in the Salt Lake City Tribune, Zion National Park spokesperson Aly Baltrus talked about the drone issue. “It seems to have exploded recently. They are getting more affordable and now that you can put a camera on them they are more purposed.”
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers stands ready to assist ODFW in this serious concern. Before the next big game animal is taken by those using drones for scouting purposes and hunting, we hope ODFW will make the current regulation stronger and clear to all.
Ed Putnam, Co-Chair
Brian Jennings, Sportsmen’s Outreach Coordinator, Oregon
PO Box 9040
Bend, OR 97708