Here is an update on the ongoing effort to control unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, also known as “drones”) in Oregon State Parks. A law that directed the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) to create regulations for drone takeoff and landing on properties they manage—which includes more than 200 parks and the whole ocean shore—was enacted during the 2021 legislative session.
This offered a fantastic chance to control better drone use on territory that the OPRD oversees. Regulations only apply to areas for takeoff and landing, which is a crucial distinction. Drones that are in the air are subject to separate FAA restrictions.
Over a million seabirds, including endangered species like the Snowy Plover, nest along the coast of Oregon. Our seashore is crucial for nesting birds, as seen by the iconic sight of 60,000 Common Murres on Yaquina Head. At the same time, the number of people traveling to the shore is rapidly rising.
Recreational drone use has increased dramatically in recent years, following a general trend. Due to this, birds, marine mammals, and other species are now being disturbed more frequently. Numerous bird species have shown evidence that these disturbances hurt nesting success.
A drone collision recently forced 3,000 Elegant Terns to abandon 1,500 active nests in a spectacular incident in California. Drone use can also adversely affect the tranquil, secure, and private experience visitors to Oregon’s State Parks and the coast seek. At the same time, they explore and enjoy the state’s natural areas.
Drone Rules in Oregon State Parks Rewritten After Public Outcry
The process, unfortunately, got off to a rocky start because the initial Rules Advisory Committee (RAC) assembled by OPRD strangely did not include members from Oregon conservation groups, recreational user groups (other than drone users), or Tribal nations, who all have interests affected by the rule. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, was also absent from the RAC.
Portland Audubon and Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition were then tardily added by OPRD to the RAC for the second meeting. By then, the damage had already been done, and the draft rules had been heavily skewed in favor of the widespread use of drones in park areas. OPRD established a working group to restart the RAC process following a public outcry and a brief but effective campaign.
The tweet below confirms the news:
The working group, which Portland Audubon is a part of, has a healthy mix of stakeholders from the conservation, government, drone, and other recreational sectors. This group held many meetings throughout the last summer to draft criteria for determining whether areas of state park grounds should have drones permanently forbidden, seasonally prohibited, or allowed.
As a result of our efforts in the working group, the draft criteria presently forbid drone takeoffs and landings in locations that house federally or state-protected species, share borders with existing protected areas, and present a risk to other uses. Drones would be forbidden during times of year when species are most vulnerable, such as during nesting season, where wildlife congregates for migration, breeding, or wintering.
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The working group will meet at least once more to finalize the draft criteria. Portland Audubon is advocating for the strictest standards to limit the use of drones to areas where their effects on animals would be minimal.
However, the devil will be in the details. Based on the criteria, OPRD personnel create maps outlining these restricted, seasonally prohibited, and approved drone use regions. The working group will examine and make changes to the maps after they are finished (probably in late summer or early fall). Nevertheless, there isn’t a set time frame for public review and feedback on these drafts.
We are now collaborating with the OPRD leadership to enable this crucial public involvement. Drone use in state parks and along the coast should be subject to public input from all Oregonians. Look for chances to direct appropriate drone usage on state park properties.
You may count on us to keep you informed if there is a new update about this topic. In the meanwhile, if you visit our website focushillsboro, you will be able to read the most recent updates on stories that are linked to this topic.