Curt Melcher, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Director since 2014, has announced he is retiring effective April 1, 2024.
Melcher was formally appointed as director by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in February 2015; before that he served as interim director. He was reappointed to a third four-year term in February 2023.
Melcher grew up in northwest Oregon and graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S. degree in Biology. He has been with ODFW since 1985, starting his career doing fish surveys on the Columbia and Willamette rivers and serving in numerous positions including Deputy Director from 2007-2014.
“It’s been an honor and privilege to serve as the director for the last nine years,” said Melcher. “I appreciate and respect the mission driven staff that serve the resource and our customers.
“We have a dedicated and talented workforce and I leave the agency in good hands,” Melcher added.
Under Melcher’s tenure, the agency worked with partners to conserve new properties including nearly 16,000 acres on the Minam River, 10,000 acres on the lower Deschutes River, and numerous properties in the Willamette Valley.
Another highlight, says a ODFW press release, “was the development of historic cooperative agreements with six Tribes that enhance their sovereignty and give each Tribe a stronger voice in protecting fish, wildlife and their habitats—a mission both the Tribes and the agency share.”
In recognition of the importance of habitat for conserving fish and wildlife, the agency also restored its Habitat Division and secured new resources to address important issues like instream water rights and habitat connectivity. Finally, under Melcher’s leadership, the agency’s finances have been stabilized while avoiding a fee increase for hunters and anglers for a decade, said ODFW.
ODFW’s next director will be selected following a recruitment process expected to start in January. The Fish and Wildlife Commission will make the appointment in partnership with Gov. Tina Kotek’s office and hopes to conclude the recruitment prior to April 1.
“Director Melcher will leave a well-run Agency. The Commission has deep respect and appreciation for the highly competent and dedicated ODFW staff, and for Director Melcher’s leadership of the Agency,” said Mary Wahl, Chair of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. “The long list of important accomplishments ODFW’s staff and Director have produced year after year for Oregon’s fish, wildlife and habitat resources is of enormous value to the State.
“The Commission will work closely with Governor Kotek’s Natural Resources Office to recruit a new ODFW Director,” Wahl continued. “We seek a director with a strong record protecting and managing our fish, wildlife and habitat assets, and one who will be an exceptional leader creating a vision for ODFW’s work that meets the challenges Oregon faces from accelerating climate change and biodiversity loss impacts, and threats to our cold water sources.”