Fish, Wildlife Bills Still Kicking In Olympia, Some Not So Much

We’ve passed a halfway mark, of sorts, in Olympia, where yesterday marked a deadline to get bills out of the House or Senate and over to the other chamber.

As ever at this point of the legislative session, Washington’s halls of power are littered with the carnage of lawmakers’ sausage-making — one observer noted that the 500 bills they’d been watching have now been winnowed to 50 — and so the turkey vulture that is the Olympia Outsider has swooped in to feast on the gory mess.

But while many fish- and wildlife-related bills have died, others are still alive, including several elk and wolf bills, as well as WDFW’s license increase package, HB 1647.

It’s among NTIB — or necessary to implement budget — bills that fall outside deadlines.

And according to Raquel Crosier, WDFW’s legislative liason, since the fee bill’s public hearing back a month ago, the agency has been working with a number of stakeholder organizations, “figuring out the right size to get that going again.”

Those groups include the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Puget Sound Anglers, Coastal Conservation Association, Long Live The Kings, Trout Unlimited and others.

She says they’ve been considering straight-across-the-board adjustments to license fees instead of a value-based approach, and there might also be discount packages built into it, such as five-year licenses.

Crosier says she hopes a revised version is out in the next week or so.

“We realized we started high,” she says of the agency’s initial ask. “We’ve gotten a heckuva lot of good feedback.”

Other WDFW budget-related bills still in play include:

HB 1428/SB 5466, “Concerning construction projects in state waters.”

Effect: Would increase protections for fish, and changes fees WDFW charges for hydraulic project approvals. Support from WDFW, tribes, Puget Sound Partnership, opposed by businesses, utilities, counties, Farm Bureau.

HB 1429/SB 5303, “Concerning aquatic invasive species management.”

Effect: The result of a two-year process among numerous stakeholder groups, the bills focus more attention and funding on stopping the spread of unwanted species. Support from WDFW, Invasive Species Council, opposed by shippers and ports

HB 1865, “Concerning the Columbia river recreational salmon and steelhead endorsement program.”

Effect: Reauthorizes collecting a fee to fish the Columbia and its tribs for Chinook, coho, sockeye and steelhead, with money going to expand and monitor fisheries. Though it didn’t receive a hearing, it’s WDFW-request legislation.

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STAYING ALIVE — NONBUDGET BILLS STILL IN PLAY

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HB 1257, “Concerning the release of wild beavers.”

Effect: Currently, if WDFW catches a beaver in Western Washington and doesn’t want to turn it into a hat, the toothsome critter has to be relocated to Eastern Washington, but this bill would allow them to be released on this side of the Cascade Crest, with the idea being to improve stream health and salmon and steelhead habitat.

Introduced by: Reps. Kretz, Blake, Taylor, Fitzgibbon and Buys

Status: Gnawed its way through the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, dropped a 98-0 vote across the chamber and waddled over to the Senate, where it had a hearing today in Natural Resources and Parks, with great testimony from beaver believer Mike Sevigny of the Tulalip Tribes.

Olympia Outsider’s Revised Odds: Dam good, we’d say.

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HB 1353, “Commissioning an elk management pilot project that focuses initially on the Colockum elk herd.”

Effect: Requires WDFW and DOT to come up with more ideas on how to reduce elk-vehicle collisions on I-90 as well as elk teeth-crop collisions on aglands surrounding this herd’s range, with an eye towards using the program elsewhere in the state.

Introduced by: Reps. Dent, Blake, Buys, Hayes

Status: Stampeded out of the House on a 96-1 vote and was sent to the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee, where it also had a hearing today.

Olympia Outsider’s Revised Odds: With another elk bill having already grazed its way out of NRP this session, and with support from WDFW on this one, it will probably be herded towards the Governor’s Desk.

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HB 1465, “Exempting from public disclosure certain information regarding reports on wolf depredations.”

Effect: Would shield producers and others who sign up for or perform various nonlethal prevention measures, report or suffer wolf attacks, have to go out and deal with them, as well as conceal where depredations occurred to naming just the pack territory.

Introduced by: Reps. Short, Lytton, Kretz, Koster

Status: Howled out of the House on a 95-2 vote, and now is in Senate NRP.

Olympia Outsider’s Revised Odds: Can see this one jumping the fence and getting onto the _________’s ____.

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SB 5474, “Initiating proactive steps to address elk hoof disease.”

Effect: Original bill would have allowed elk hunters to shoot limping elk year-round, but that part was dropped, while a substitute version puts Washington State University in charge of monitoring affected elk and coming up with solutions.

Introduced by: Sen. Pearson

Status: Sent to the House on a 49-0 vote, and will next be heard in House AGNR on March 15.

Olympia Outsider’s Revised Odds: The Olympia Outsider himself is limping off into the sunset after this bill defied his original odds and stayed alive, signalling this bill’s a tough old bull and could survive battles in the House, though OO is uneasy about precedences.

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SB 5761, “Exempting certain confidential fish and shellfish harvest information from disclosure under chapter 42.56 RCW, the public records act.”

Effect: Originally just to shield tribal fishermen’s names, signatures, harvest and more from public records requests, shellfish growers info was subsequently added.

Introduced by: Sen. McCoy, Hunt, Hasegawa

Status: After two unusual U-turns — one that gutted the original bill and turned it into a legislative task force, and the next gutting the gutting and pushing some more guts into the original bill — it passed out of the Senate on a 45-0 vote and has a March 15 hearing in House State Government.

Olympia Outsider’s Odds: As it aligns state law with federal Magnuson Stevens Act laws, likely to pass.

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SJM 8009, “Requesting Congress to provide the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries with sufficient resources to expedite its endangered species act and national environmental policy act review of Puget Sound hatchery and genetic management plans and that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries prioritize and conduct immediate review and approval of Puget Sound hatchery and genetic management plans.”

Effect: See above.

Introduced by: Sen. Chase

Status: Swam out of the Senate on a 38-11 vote (we’ll give Northeast Washington Sens. Padden and Short a pass, but apparently no hatchery salmonids swim by or anglers live in Sens. Angel, Brown, Honeyford, King, Rivers, Schoesler, Van De Wege, Walsh and Wilson’s districts on the Columbia, Puget Sound, Straits and Pacific), and is holding in the House awaiting assignment.

Olympia Outsider’s Odds: This should be easy to support as it costs nothing, tells the federal government to get cracking, and helps ensure fish for all fleets, so it’s a little puzzling why 11 senators would vote nay, but we have faith in the House getting this out.

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SJR 8206, “Amending the Constitution to preserve the right to hunt and fish.”

Effect: Puts a constitutional amendment enshrining Washington’s hunting and fishing heritage and rights up for a vote in the general election.

Introduced by: Sens. Braun, Takko, Pearson, Fortunato, Schoesler, Bailey, Warnick, Angel, Rivers, Walsh, Becker

Status: Received a hearing in Senate NRP today.

Olympia Outsider’s Odds: Introduced a bit late for this session and fall vote, but make sure you’re registered so you can vote yes on this one in 2018!

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R.I.P. — BILLS THAT ARE TECHNICALLY DEAD

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HB 1008

Short title: “Concerning the acquisition of land by state natural resources agencies”

Effect: Would have required WDFW to sell off an acre of its own land in the same county for every new one it buys.

Introduced by: Reps. Shea, Taylor, Short, McCaslin, Buys, Schmick, Haler

Status: Had an airing of grievances in House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and then expired on snowy winter range.

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HB 1077

Short title: “Establishing rules for motorized suction dredge mining in rivers and streams equal to other hydraulic projects by modifying a hydraulic project approval exemption.”

Effect: Would have required suction dredgers to fill out and get a hydraulic permit approval, or HPA, to operate on the state’s waters, whereas now they just need to read a pamphlet.

Introduced by: Reps. Fitzgibbon, Pollet and McBride

Status: Had a public hearing in House AGNR, but got lost in the dredge afterwards

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HB 1103

Short title: “Concerning the transfer of federal land to the state.”

Effect: Would have created a panel to oversee the liquidation of Forest Service lands outside wilderness areas and the volcanic monument, as well as national wildlife refuges and BLM lands.

Introduced by: Reps. Taylor, Shea, McCaslin, Volz, Condotta, Short, Buys

Status: Referred to Judiciary Committee and forgotten about, thankfully.

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HB 1229

Short title: “Ensuring that fishing opportunities in Washington are consistent with the economic contributions provided by the fishing user groups.”

Effect: Would have required WDFW to maximize recreational opportunities before setting commercial fisheries, as well as better align hatchery production with what they do for hook-and-line angling.

Introduced by: Reps. Pike, Pollet, Pettigrew, Shea, Taylor, Vick, Springer, Goodman, Harris and Kraft

Status: Referred to House AGNR where it was never going to receive a hearing, and never did.

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HB 1872

Short title: “Providing for the partial delisting of the gray wolf by the fish and wildlife commission.”

Effect: Would require the Fish and Wildlife Commission to delist wolves in Eastern Washington counties adjacent to Canada.

Introduced by: Reps. Kretz, Blake, Short

Status: Received a hearing in House AGNR, then died in favor of allowing the Wolf Advisory Group to continue addressing lupus issues.

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SB 5302

Short title: “Establishing pilot projects for destination steelhead fisheries on the Olympic Peninsula and Klickitat river.”

Effect: Would have required guides and outfitters running certain OlyPen rivers and the Klickitat at certain times to purchase special permits after proving they’d guided the waters for a set amount of time.

Introduced by: Sens. Van De Wege, King

Status: A relatively early-arriving bill in Olympia, it was quickly yarded in, bonked and released, never to be seen again.

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