The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission last week approved moving forward on a request to the State Legislature to increase Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife funding.
The commission approved the department’s request to seek $24.5 million in increased operating funds, plus $26 million in capital funds, during the 2020 state legislative supplemental session.
The bulk of the funding request, $11.4 million, would help the agency to address an ongoing structural deficit driven by legislated and unavoidable cost increases, such as the rising costs of wages and centralized state services.
The department will also seek $6.6 million to continue serving the public at current levels.
Department services at risk in 2020, says the agency, without ongoing, additional funding include:
1.Cuts to the staff who provide community and private landowner habitat conservation expertise;
2.Cuts in fish production at eight salmon and trout hatcheries;
3.Cuts to hunting opportunities;
4.Cuts to staff able to provide non-lethal response when people and wildlife are in conflict;
5.Cuts to shellfish inspections for the benefit of public safety;
6.Cuts in access to salmon and steelhead fishing on portions of the Columbia River and its tributaries;
7.Cuts to maintenance and forest health treatments across the million acres of land managed by the department; and
8.Cuts to customer service.
These public services were also at risk in the last budget cycle, when state legislators provided enough funding for the department to carry the services forward for one year. Now, the department is seeking ongoing funds to continue providing these services.
The state’s Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement expired June 30 and a bill to extend the fee did not pass the legislative session. The endorsement generated about $3 million per biennium. The agency is now asking for general fund money to make up the loss.
(–See CBB, May 8, 2019, ON JULY 1, WASHINGTON ANGLERS NO LONGER NEED TO PAY COLUMBIA RIVER SALMON/STEELHEAD ENDORSEMENT FEE)
“People really value how this work improves their lives – we know that. We had widespread stakeholder support last year, and we believe we will again this year,” shared Commission Chair Larry Carpenter. “We want to see all of these items funded not just for another year, but on an ongoing basis. Though, ultimately, it’s about more than just these services that are at risk – it’s really about having a functional department that’s able to deliver results whether you enjoy fishing and hunting, or just knowing that our state’s wildlife is thriving and conserved for the future.”
The commission also approved a request of $6.5 million in new, ongoing funding to address “emergent needs:”
1.Better monitoring of salmon in Puget Sound, the Nisqually River, and Skagit River to provide fishing opportunities; $2.4 million
2.Removing sea lions feeding on Columbia River salmon; $830,000
3.Meeting existing Columbia River commitments for commercial fishing and salmon recovery objectives; $1 million
4.Continuation of the Fish Washington mobile app, which helps anglers to comply with necessary rules; $311,000
5.Salmon habitat regulatory protections; $1.7 million
6.Minimizing humpback whale entanglement with commercial crab pots. $172,000
For more details on the budget request see the power point presentation presented to the commission.
The commission also adopted rules that will require fishing guides to report their fishing activities on a monthly basis beginning Jan. 1, 2020. Fishing guides will provide WDFW with information such as the date and location of each guided fishing trip, the number of anglers onboard, and the number and type of fish species caught per trip. This information will help WDFW understand the role the guide industry plays not only in terms of helping recreational anglers to access fisheries, but also in providing economic benefits to local and state economies.
Additionally, the commission directed the department to refine its state hatchery and fishery reform policy process timeline. The policy was originally adopted by the commission in 2009. Last year, commissioners called for a scientific review of the policy, which is intended to improve hatchery effectiveness, ensure compatibility between hatchery production and salmon recovery plans, and support sustainable fisheries. The commission directed WDFW staff to come back to their September meeting with a revised schedule that would better accommodate tribal co-manager engagement and public review.