Tag Archives: america outdoors radio

New USFWS Director Talks Fishing, Hunting, More With Northwest Outdoor Reporters

Local hook-and-bullet reporters talked with new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith about expanding fishing and hunting access, building the base for conservation, hatchery salmon production and clean water at last weekend’s Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show in Portland.


Skipwith, a biologist and lawyer who was confirmed to the position 52-39 by the Senate in mid-December, also spoke with and before representatives from the region’s fishing and hunting industries and ODFW staffers.

And she stopped in at the nearby Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, where she enjoyed a “phenomenal visit,” she told a radio show host.

Well known for its waterfowl hunting, the refuge is among many whose purchase was aided by Duck Stamp dollars.

“We recognize that hunters and fishers are the backbone of conservation,” Skipwith told Terry Otto of The Columbian when asked why she’d come West to the show, which she termed the second largest in the country.

“That is where we need to make sure that we are engaging with the industry, to come here and let them know that we appreciate what they are doing and that this aligns with what this administration is about,” she said.

During an interview with John Kruse of America Outdoors Radio for broadcast this Saturday, Skipwith termed the expansion of fishing and hunting opportunities on national wildlife refuges, which ramped up during the Obama Administration and has continued with the Trump Administration, “one of the bread and butters of what the Fish and Wildlife Service is doing right now,”

“How do we expand those opportunities. How do we look at access? Are we engaging all of the traditional audiences. Are we engaging the new audiences? Are we engaging the states as much as we can? And so we’re always looking at finding ways to do that. We look at ways our regulations allow for ways to increase fishing and hunting opportunities,” she said, adding that 1.4 million acres have been opened for our favorite activities over the past year alone.

USFWS also just announced that with public input it was developing a list of priority 640-plus-acre landlocked parcels to unlock, but the administration was also criticized at the same time by Backcountry Hunters and Anglers for contradicting that goal by proposing to slash the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 97 percent.

A marathon and trail runner originally from Indiana and with roots in the Deep South, Skipwith also talked about “cultivating” people to begin using public lands with Kruse.

She told Otto that with so many people in close proximity to national wildlife refuges, “(It’s) educating folks that you don’t have to go all the way to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. There are places in your backyard that you can go to experience the great outdoors as I have, and it’s something that is very important to me.”

Skipwith is the first black USFWS director. She holds degrees in biology, genetics and law. Prior to her confirmation, she was an assistant director in the agency for two and a half years, and before that worked for Monsanto.

Asked by Randall Bonner, a Corvallis-based outdoorsmen who freelances for this magazine and others, about recent administration moves around the Clean Water Act — “protections that ensure healthy ecosystems for our fish” — Bonner reported on his Rain or Shine blog that Skipwith replied, “The USFWS makes the best decisions they can based on science.”

Touching on proposed mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed as well, Bonner wrote, “Let Director Skipwith know what you think about conservation of our salmon, steelhead and trout streams that need clean water.”

Speaking of salmon, she confirmed to Otto that USFWS has a role in boosting production.

“You have commercial fishing, recreational fishing, tribal nations, and so knowing that this is a species that is important to various stakeholders, knowing that the federal government has an interest as well, we will be working with all the parties. It’s not going to be a single group that is going to have a solution. It’s going to be a team effort,” Skipwith stated.

Few Washington Fish And Wildlife Commissioners Actively Fish And/Or Hunt

Updated 9:45 a.m. Sept. 23, 2018

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is rather light on active anglers and hunters these days, per a report from a Wenatchee-based radio show host today.


John Kruse of Northwestern Outdoors Radio and America Outdoors Radio says that just one of the eight current members of the citizen panel that oversees and sets policies for the Department of Fish and Wildlife bought a hunting license in 2017 and only three had a fishing license last year.

Commissioner Don McIsaac of Hockinson and the former longtime director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council purchased both while Chair Brad Smith of Bellingham and Dave Graybill, the “fishing magician” of Leavenworth, held the latter.

“Four other commissioners, Robert Kehoe, Barbara Baker, Jay Holzmiller and Kim Thorburn, do not appear to be hunters or recreational anglers based on this license purchasing review and the biographies published about them on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission Web Page,” Kruse wrote in a story.

Kehoe, of Seattle, is the director of a commercial fishing association; Baker is the retired clerk of the state House of Representatives; Holzmiller is an Asotin County rancher and equipment operator; and Thorburn is a retired public health official and Spokane birdwatcher.

The eighth member, Vice Chair Larry Carpenter, a staunch angling advocate, told Kruse he had been a license-buying sportsman for 70 years but hadn’t bought any the past two seasons due to medical issues that kept him from taking to the field and waters around his Mount Vernon home.

The commission usually has nine members, but last month Jay Kehne of Omak resigned to spend more time with his family and afield. He bought hunting and fishing licenses last year.

Kruse says his reporting is based on a public disclosure request that he filed several months ago and follow-up questions with commissioners, and his story comes out after members last month voted to ask state lawmakers to increase license fees by 15 percent during next year’s legislative session. If passed and signed into law, it would be the first hike since 2011.

Hunters and anglers are WDFW’s key constituency, providing roughly one-third of its budget through license fees and federal kickbacks from Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts’ excise taxes on sporting equipment.

And we are also among the electricity rate and sales tax payers who along with state residents help pay the rest of the agency’s bills through local utility contracts to operate hydropower mitigation hatcheries, etc., and the state General Fund.

So it’s an expectation that members of the governor-appointed board are like us. That so relatively few are — at least by 2017 license purchases — will raise eyebrows and elicit concern about representation.

How can they know what’s going on on Chinook streams and in the mule deer mountains, in the duck marshes and on the trout lakes if they’re not out there at some point? And how can they relate to our pain at the pump, per se?

At the same time,  not all of us who identify as hunters and anglers get licenses every year either, what is known in the industry as churn.

There are others out there in the state with a stake in fish, wildlife and wildland management too.

And this is not to say that commissioners who may not fish or hunt aren’t looking out for our interests, in one way or another. Earlier this year Thorburn was one of two members wondering loudly if, with Northeast Washington packed with wolves, there wasn’t a way to tweak the statewide management plan to alleviate pressure. The other was Kehne, and ultimately all except Baker signed on to a bid asking agency staffers to look into it. Even if Holzmiller doesn’t fish or hunt, he’s still tuned in to us, as his comments during commission meetings indicate.

The Revised Codes of Washington require that commissioners only be registered voters and be separated geographically from one another. The Washington Administrative Codes say, “In making these appointments, the governor is required to seek to maintain a balance reflecting all aspects of fish and wildlife. Commission members are appointed because they have general knowledge of the habit and distribution of fish and wildlife and are often recommended by interest groups, such as sport fishers, commercial fishers, hunters, private landowners, and environmentalists.”

Kruse’s story comes at a time when WDFW is actually looking for more general public support for its missions, as our interview  with new director Kelly Susewind last month and the agency’s budget proposal for the next biennium make clear.

Where WDFW leaned entirely on sportsmen to pay the freight with its 2016-17 Wild Futures Initiative, which failed badly due to lack of support from sporting groups, the latest ask from the agency puts two-thirds of the onus for new funding on the state General Fund.

That’s a sharp course reversal since the Great Recession put the burden on user fees, but also a recognition of increasing legislative requirements and, as Kruse notes, declining hunter and angler numbers — and dollars — as we age out and opportunities slump due to habitat and other issues.

Hat tip to John for digging up the information.  It’s not like other members are making anti-sportsman decisions, but it will be interesting to see who is appointed to the commission to fill the empty seat. Even as I recognize that WDFW needs broader support, I’d feel more comfortable knowing it was someone like us.