“You have reached the Ecosystem Management and Recreation Agency. If you have a question about hunting regulations, press 1. If you would like to reserve a campground at a state park, press 2. If you have a question about state wildlife areas, please call the DNR.”
That’s a phone greeting you might hear in the future if one particular consolidation scenario that Washington’s natural resources agencies are looking at comes to fruition.
Earlier this year, Gov. Gregoire asked the state’s Departments of Fish & Wildlife, Natural Resources, Parks, Health, Agriculture, Ecology and other groups to come up with ideas on how to reform management of their agencies, reduce costs and improve service delivery.
A week or so ago, the departments issued a 172-page document that looked at several scenarios combining the resource divisions into two, three, four and five agencies.
Basically for WDFW, the more individual agencies there are, the more the department’s functions might be split off.
Also, law enforcement functions would be combined with DNR and placed under the State Patrol or made into a separate agency.
It’s a lot to chew on, but you have about a month to try and digest it all. Public comments are being accepted through October 28.
Here’s a rough overview, courtesy of WDFW, on how it might all sort out for the department:
Overview: Natural resource reform ideas and WDFW programs
Concepts in the “Ideas to Improve Management of Washington’s Natural Resources” document would have significant effects on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) organization and functions, with effects varying by option. This overview indicates where existing WDFW programs and activities would be placed under the various options.
The following ideas are outlined on pages 21-68 of the document as ways to reorganize natural resource agency structure:
1. Two-Agency Model – Would reorganize existing natural resource agencies into the following two new agencies:
1. Department of Environmental Regulation, which would manage environmental permits, land use, and other environmental issues. WDFW’s Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) program would be placed here under this model.
2. Department of Resource, Recreation, and Land Management, which would manage state lands and recreation. WDFW’s fishing and hunting management, including commercial fishery management, would be placed here under this model. Management of salmon recovery, wildlife areas and water-access sites, and financial assistance for fish-passage projects also would be placed here.
2. Three-Agency Model – Would reorganize existing agencies into the following three new agencies:
1. Environmental Protection Agency, which would manage pollution impacts and land use.
2. Agriculture and Natural Resources Land Management Agency, which would manage state conservation and working lands (agriculture, logging, etc.) Management of WDFW wildlife habitat lands would be placed here under this model.
3. Recreation, Resources, and Ecosystem Conservation Agency, which would manage fish, wildlife and recreation; regulate hydraulic approvals; and address ecosystem-based management and recovery. WDFW’s work with tribal natural resource co-managers, species conservation, hatchery management, fishing and hunting season-setting, hydraulic project approvals (HPAs), and management of recreational wildlife areas and water-access sites would be placed here under this model.
3. Four-Agency Model –Would keep the departments of Ecology, Agriculture, and Natural Resources remaining as they are and would create a new “Ecosystem Management and Recreation Agency.”
WDFW would be merged with State Parks to form a new Ecosystem Management and Recreation agency , under this model. The Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Parks Commission would be combined into a single commission, or WDFW and Parks would be put under the authority of the Governor with a single advisory commission. Most current WDFW functions would be administered through this new, merged agency. (Except, as in the three-agency model, management of wildlife habitat lands would be placed in the Department of Natural Resources.)
4. Five-Agency Model –Would create five independent agencies and shift programs from current agencies to align related programs:
1. Environmental Protection Agency, which would manage pollution impacts and land use.
2. Agricultural Agency, which would support and promote agriculture.
3. Public Land Management Agency, which would manage state-owned lands. WDFW wildlife lands (both habitat and recreation lands) and water-access sites would be placed here under this model.
4. Resource and Ecosystem Conservation Agency, which would manage public resources (fish and wildlife), regulate natural resources activities, and address ecosystem-based management and recovery. WDFW’s work with tribal resource co-managers; species conservation; hunting and fishing season-setting; and hatchery management all would be placed here under this model. The Puget Sound Partnership and the Salmon Recovery office, Biodiversity Council and Invasive Species Council also would be placed here under this model.
5. Environmental and Natural Resources Financial Assistance Agency, which would provide leadership and accountability for all natural resources and environmental grant and loan programs. Natural resource grant and loan programs would be placed here under this model.
Note: Under all of the above agency-reorganization models, WDFW and DNR law enforcement functions either would move to the Washington State Patrol or be constituted as a combined stand-alone agency. The enforcement reorganization concepts are detailed under the “Sharing Services and Functions” section below.
The remaining reorganization ideas would not require agency consolidation to be implemented.
5. Unified State Vision – This concept would create a unified vision for all natural resources agencies to better enable state government to focus scarce time and money on the most important things. Under this idea, agencies would create a unified vision, mission, goals and outcomes for natural-resource management through strategic planning. Agencies would identify a common set of environmental threats and would prioritize and synchronize management strategies, and then collaborate to achieve the goals.
6. Re-align Regional Boundaries and Co-locate Regional Offices – Under this idea agencies, over time, would combine and relocate their current regional offices into regional offices made up of multiple agency employees, supported by shared work centers. WDFW’s existing regional boundaries likely would change under this model.
7. Collaborative Ecosystem-based Management – Under this idea, agencies would collaboratively establish goals and priorities in eco-regions, which are large geographic areas (such as Puget Sound), that have topographical and ecological characteristics that differentiate them from other eco-regions. This idea could use science and local planning and prioritization processes to better focus state efforts.
8. Formalize Multi-Agency Collaboration —Under this concept—known as “structured collaboration”—cross-agency teams and formal working relationships would be established among agencies. These cross-agency teams would have dedicated employees, budgets, and missions that focus on strategy, coordinated responses and shared responsibilities. Multi-agency collaboration efforts could include current WDFW activities such as salmon recovery, watershed heath, state-tribal resource co-management, permit streamlining and state land acquisition.
Sharing Services and Functions
Ideas presented on pages 69-116 of the document address potential efficiencies that do not involve broad, multi-agency reorganization:
1. Share Geographic Information System (GIS) technology used to inventory, manage and map information about Washington’s natural and human-built environment. This information is used to manage natural resources, protect Washington’s environment, and ensure public safety. WDFW’s GIS work would be included in this effort.
2. Coordinate Citizen Science –Under this idea, agencies and citizens would better collaborate to gather data. The state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) would be the lead agency in scoping, testing and implementing the citizen science project. WDFW’s citizen science efforts would be included in this coordinated approach.
3. Consolidate Natural Resources Law Enforcement – Several ideas are presented on pages 86-97 of the document:
1. Reclassify all natural resource agency law enforcement officers to expand their authority to that of general police officers. WDFW’s Enforcement Program already is designated as a general authority law enforcement entity; this change would affect DNR officers.
2. Combine law enforcement officers from the WDFW and DNR into an independent agency.
3. Create a Natural Resource Enforcement Bureau within the Washington State Patrol, staffed with enforcement officers from WDFW and DNR. WDFW officers would become part of the Washington State Patrol under this option.
4. Consolidate Grants and Loans – Two ideas are presented on pages 98-116 of the document:
1. Create a Natural Resources Financial Assistance Agency that would co-locate current grant and loan programs. This one agency would develop a web-based portal for customer access; standardize forms and reporting; and coordinate compliance of contractual obligations.
2. Create a Natural Resources Grants and Loans Council, which would create a centralized information portal and develop common forms, procedures, protocols, and performance measures. Under the council, grants and loans would remain in multiple agencies, but some of the current grant programs would be aligned along functional lines. WDFW’s grant programs, including the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account (ALEA), Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Migration Act, Landowner Incentive Program, Partnerships for Pheasants, and Grants to Wildlife Rehabilitators, would be included in these concepts.
Improving Environmental Protection, Permitting and Compliance
Concepts to improve environmental protection and permitting (on pages 117-146 of the document) include ideas to:
1. Update the Growth Management Act.
2. Expand pilot projects testing consolidated and coordinated permitting systems. WDFW’s Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) program could be included in this effort.
3. Grant agencies authority to do permit by rule and expand programmatic permits that create blanket requirements applicants must comply with in order to receive hydraulic project permits. Under this concept WDFW could develop programmatic HPAs for DNR forest-practice activities on state trust lands, and for maintenance activities associated with water crossings, overwater structures and bank-protection structures.
4. Consolidate regulation of dairy’s manure waste from two agencies to one.
5. Target delivery of incentive-based programs for landowners–Under this idea, the state Conservation Commission would be the point of contact for incentive programs. Conservation districts would coordinate with state, federal, local and tribal agencies to provide a package of tailored incentives to a landowner. WDFW would be added to the State Conservation Commission as a full member under this concept. WDFW current participates only as an observer.
6. Implement Outcome-Based Environmental Management–Under this idea, the state would shift its emphasis for managing environmental resources from a single resource view to a view that attempts to achieve larger ecosystem objectives, such as restoration of endangered species and restoration of watershed processes. Under this concept, state agencies would aim to jointly administer natural-resource compliance monitoring and enforcement activities. WDFW species and habitat monitoring and enforcement activities would be included in this concept.
Streamlining quasi-judicial boards
Streamlining ideas, presented on pages 145-166 of the document, include concepts to:
1. Move Environmental Cases to Boards with Environmental Expertise—This would move general hydraulic permit appeals, surface mining reclamation permit appeals and derelict vessel appeals from the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) to boards with environmental expertise. General HPA appeals would be moved under this concept.
2. Redesign Boards into a single Environmental and Land Use Adjudicatory Agency – Under this idea the functions performed under the Environmental Hearings Office and the Growth Management Hearings Boards would be merged into a single adjudicative agency containing two major quasi-judicial components: Appeals of natural resources and environmental regulatory matters, and land use related appeals. The Hydraulic Appeals Board would be moved out of the Environmental Hearings Office and would become part of the Pollution Control Hearings Board under this concept.
3. Growth Management Hearings Boards Efficiency and Structure.
4. Eliminate Duplicative Administrative Review for Certain Agency Decisions—This idea would eliminate the ability to request remission or mitigation of civil penalties from the Departments of Ecology and Natural Resources. Appeals of the civil penalty would go directly to the appropriate board. WDFW administrative orders and rule-making would be included in this concept.
5. Address Separate Appeals of Shoreline Master Programs—In this concept, all shoreline Master Program appeals would be referred to the Land Use Planning Appeals Board, which would consist of panels from members of the Growth Management Hearings Board and the Shoreline Hearings Board.