As Washington’s two largest sportsman and boat shows fire up for a big weekend, word has emerged that strong recreational angling advocates in Olympia may be on the chopping block.
Rumors have been circulating that the appointments of some Fish and Wildlife Commissioners could be in jeopardy following recent votes, and now anglers are being strongly encouraged to contact Governor Jay Inslee, his staff members JT Austin and Kelly Wicker, and a powerful state senator in an attempt to head that off.
The crux is, as Washington continues to move towards recognizing the tremendous economic contributions of the sportfishing industry — fully on display now at the Washington Sportsmen’s Show in Puyallup and the Seattle Boat Show at Seahawks Stadium and on south Lake Union — and the conservation benefits of selective fishing in waters where more and more Endangered Species Act-listed salmon and steelhead are swimming, the far smaller gillnetting fleet and its point people are pressuring Inslee to go back on his 2015 letter to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in which he stated he was “convinced that we can prioritize and expand fishing opportunities for the 800,000 Washingtonians who purchase fishing licenses annually …”
In recent weeks, that commission voted 7-2 to continue moving towards agreed-to salmon fishing reforms on the Lower Columbia River. But Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife oversight council went the opposite way, backtracking on the reforms, breaking promises to hundreds of thousands of anglers and throwing the nearly 100-year-old Columbia River Compact and fishing regulation concurrency into question for the first time. That’s the result of Oregon Governor Kate Brown appointing a commissioner whose sole goal appears to have been to blow up the agreement forged in 2012 and 2013 to head off a ballot initiative that might have led to the end of nontribal commercial gillnetting in Oregon.
And now, concerns are being raised about two and possibly three of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioners who voted in favor of that.
That’s according to a blog post on Tidal Exchange, a sportfishing advocacy site, and generally confirmed by what Northwest Sportsman has been hearing the past few days as well.
Carpenter’s term on the panel came up at the end of 2016 pending a reappointment, while Wecker’s runs through 2018, though she has not been officially confirmed by the state Senate.
Both are rock-solid fish and sportfishing advocates, natural resource policy experts and thoughtful members of a panel charged with ensuring that the state’s fish and wildlife continue in perpetuity.
Wecker has also been exceedingly good on hunting issues, especially predator management. In reappointing her to the commission in 2013, Inslee said, “Miranda Wecker has done an excellent job in leading the commission’s work on several challenging fish and wildlife policy issues, and I am very pleased that she is willing to serve another term.”
As tens of thousands of Washington sportsmen head to the shows this weekend, it would be an extraordinary cruel and shortsighted blow to remove two such wise members of the commission.
For more details on the situation and a sign-on form to send to the Governor’s Office, see tidalexchange.com.