A report late last week said she was leaving, but Miranda Wecker is not letting go of her longtime seat on Washington’s Fish & Wildlife Commission, it would appear.
Both the citizen panel’s members homepage and an agenda for their April 3 conference call that was emailed out yesterday morning show her name and current term through 2018 listed alongside those of two new members, Chelan fishing writer Dave Graybill and Spokane birdwatcher Kim Thorburn.
Their appointments were first reported by Rich Landers of the Spokane Spokesman-Review last Friday. The outdoors columnist added that “pending is the resignation of Miranda Wecker of Naselle and the announcement of her replacement, officials confirmed.”
David Postman, a spokesman for Governor Jay Inslee, confirmed the changes Landers’ story detailed.
He explained to Northwest Sportsman that the governor and his staff had decided “it was time to make a change in order to improve collaboration on the commission.”
Among a gaggle of new commissioners that then-Governor Christine Gregoire appointed in her first months in office way back in 2005, Wecker had been the chair of the commission for six years until the very end of the same meeting this past January that the group picked a new director for the agency it oversees, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.
That’s just one of many major decisions the commission made during her time as chair, often — as with the choice of Dr. James Unsworth — unanimously. Reviews of meeting minutes turn up very few split decisions; over the past six months, just one divided vote is noted (5-1 on new hydraulic codes), and it isn’t until way back in 2006 that others really begin to pop up.
With a background in law and natural resource policy at local and international levels, Wecker has been a particularly thoughtful member of a thoughtful board charged with balancing WDFW’s twin mandates of conservation and harvest.
She led the group through selecting Phil Anderson as WDFW’s former director during very trying economic times in 2009, approving the wolf management plan in 2011, reallocating Puget Sound crab and shrimp, reforming Columbia River Chinook and sturgeon fisheries, and revising salmon policies for Grays Harbor.
Under her hand, the commission has shown that it can listen to local sportsmen’s wishes — the four-point-minimum rule for two important Northeast Washington whitetail units that was pushed by hunters in the area, but opposed by biologists — while also looking at the big picture and buying tens of thousands of acres for wildlife habitat, conservation and public recreation.
In spring 2012, it literally acted immediately on ten legislators’ insistence that ranchers be allowed to shoot a wolf attacking their stock in the state’s federally delisted eastern third as part of an effort to “grease the skids” to better fund wolf management.
And the past few years are also notable for rare statements issued by the commission, including a position paper on wolves, and letters of thanks to past commissioners Gary Douvia, David Jennings and Rollie Schmitten, and Director Anderson.
Indeed, in reappointing her (and adding Puget Sound Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association executive director Bob Kehoe) to the commission in July 2013, Gov. 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.”
Recently, the commission has been working on Willapa Bay salmon conservation and harvest management strategies, with a decision on a new framework tentatively scheduled to be made at its April 9 meeting.
Postman, the governor’s spokesman, claimed that the decision about Wecker’s resignation was “not about politics or policy,” nor an “attempt to mute any group’s voice on the commission.”
“We have appointed a strong advocate for sports fishing and we know how important that is on the commission,” he noted.
But over the past week, several members of two local fishing forums, Piscatorial Pursuits and Gamefishin, have rallied to Wecker.
They are urging fellow anglers to write to their state senators as well as Sen. Kirk Pearson, the Monroe Republican and chair of the Natural Resources and Parks Committee, which in February 2014 held an informative confirmation hearing where Wecker explained her perspectives on fish and wildlife issues of the day.
Indeed, it would be a shame to lose a person of Wecker’s caliber.
The governor’s office obviously has its viewpoint, but Curt Kraemer, the retired WDFW North Sound fisheries biologist, might have summed it up best.
Writing on Piscatorial Pursuits, he said, “… in the 40 years that I have watched commission (in its several forms) Miranda Wecker has been as fine as a commissioner as I have seen. Her knowledge, interests, courtesy, and professionalism has been beyond reproach.”