Tag Archives: hunters heritage council

Tax On Recreational Gear To Help Fund WDFW Gets Hearing In Olympia

An idea whose time has come, an “unfixable” one — or something in between?

Washington lawmakers heard all sides during a hearing on a bill that would add a .20 percent tax on certain recreational equipment and clothing over $200 to help fund the upkeep of WDFW-owned fish and wildlife habitat.

MEMBERS OF THE WALGAMOTT-ECKSTEIN CLAN SET UP TENTS IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS DURING A FOURTH OF JULY CAMPOUT SEVERAL YEARS AGO. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Citing a ring of invasive knapweed around a state wildlife area sign in Okanogan County, prime sponsor Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) said he was trying to fix a long-standing problem for the agency since the Great Recession chopped a big part of state General Fund support for its myriad missions.

“I think $2 million would give us a start,” he told members of the House Finance Committee.

That’s how much a fiscal note says HB 2122 as initially written would raise on average over the coming six years for WDFW’s Wildlife Account, from $800,000 in 2020 to $2.9 million in 2025

Hunters and anglers presenting their licenses at that point of sale would be exempt as we already pay through federal excise taxes via the venerable Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts.

“That group has been paying the freight for a pretty long time,” Kretz pointed out.

REP. JOEL KRETZ TALKS ABOUT HIS BILL, HB 2122, BEFORE A HOUSE COMMITTEE DURING A TELEVISED PUBLIC HEARING. (TVW)

However, representatives from the retail industry say they oppose it, including for its broad language and the dollars that outdoor activities already generate for local economies and state taxes — $26 billion and $2 billion, according to Mark Berejka of Seattle recreational giant REI.

“This bill is not a fix and it is not fixable,” he said.

He also questioned how the sportsman exemption would work when buying items online, and complained that the bill had been “sprung” on his industry.

THOMAS O’KEEFE OF AMERICAN WHITEWATER STATED THAT THE BILL WOULD TAX THE SKIS HE STRAPS ON ON FEDERAL LANDS BUT NOT THE PADDLE HE’D USE AT A WDFW WATER ACCESS SITE. ANOTHER SPEAKER WONDERED IF HORSE SADDLES WOULD BE TAXED. (TVW)

James Moshella of the Washington Trails Association said his group was opposed, but that if such a tax was going to be imposed it needed to have a broader conversation and also should benefit all state lands — WDFW, DNR and State Parks — that hikers use.

Organizations closer to WDFW’s mission expressed support.

Jen Syrowitz, a hunter and hiker with Washington Wildlife Federation, called the bill a “fair ask of the recreational community.”

She said there was a “disconnect” between state residents and our wildlife and the bill would help everyone understand they’re all stakeholders in WDFW carrying out its conservation mission.

Syrowitz called the tax nominal, and in offering Audubon Washington’s support, Adam Maxwell said it amounted to “60 cents on a pair of Nikon Monarch binoculars.”

He said that the dollars WDFW receives generate a 350 percent return on investment to state coffers.

Calling himself an avid hiker and photographer, Chris Bachman of Spokane’s The Lands Council said, “I’m glad to pay the tax.”

He added that what would be taxed under the bill needs to better defined, a work-in-progress sentiment that was echoed by Tom Echolls of the Hunters Heritage Council and Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest. The former gentleman signed in as “other,” the latter in support.

WITH WDFW’S NATE PAMPLIN LOOKING ON, CONSERVATION NORTHWEST DIRECTOR MITCH FRIEDMAN EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR THE BILL DURING THE PUBLIC HEARING. (TVW)

Also testifying was WDFW’s Nate Pamplin, which said his agency was supportive of the intent of the bill, which came out of legislative requirements for state fish and wildlife overseers to review their operation, conduct an audit, look for efficiencies and convene stakeholders, the Budget and Policy Group, or BPAG.

He said that that found that the department’s mission benefits all Washingtonians, and it should be funded that way.

Asked by Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) how much WDFW lost in General Fund revenues due to the recession 10 years ago, Pamplin said funding went from $110 million in the 2007-09 biennium to $75.6 million in 2009-11 to $57.7 million in 2011-13. While it recovered to $94.4 million in the current two-year budget cycle, with inflation it’s still $30 million below where it might otherwise be.

Rep. Kretz said the dropoff could be seen in “lapses in management” and in his opposition to habitat acquisitions, such as Scotch Creek, where the aforementioned weed-ringed wildlife area sign stands.

“We really appreciate the sponsor [Kretz] for thinking outside the box and this committee for holding the hearing,” Pamplin said, adding that he looked forward to working with stakeholders on the bill.

Hood Canal Senator Named To Hunters Council’s Hall Of Fame

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM SEN. TIM SHELDON’S OFFICE

State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, has been named to the Hunters Heritage Council Hall of Fame for his advocacy for hunters’ rights statewide.

SEN. TIM SHELDON (CENTER) WAS INDUCTED INTO THE HUNTERS HERITAGE COUNCIL’S HALL OF FAME. THE ORGANIZATION REPRESENTS HUNTERS, TRAPPERS AND OTHERS IN OLYMPIA. SHELDON REPRESENTS RESIDENTS OF THE HOOD CANAL AREA. (SEN. SHELDON’S OFFICE)

The organization’s top honor is presented to elected and non-elected officials who go “above and beyond” in championing the rights of hunters. Sheldon is the organization’s sole 2019 inductee.

“It’s a great honor to be selected,” Sheldon said. “In the 35th District, we are closer to the outdoors than many who live in cities, and hunting is part of our way of life. I am a strong believer in hunters’ rights, and will continue to advocate for Washington families that enjoy hunting and fishing.”


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Sheldon joins previous Hall of Fame inductees Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, Sen. Shelley Short, R-Addy, Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, former Rep. Jim Buck, R-Port Angeles, former Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, and former Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam. Non-legislators in the organization’s Hall of Fame are Jeff Christensen, Ed Owens, Tom Perry and Bobbie and Mike Thorniley.

The Hunters Heritage Council, which represents nearly 30 hunting, trapping and fishing organizations, promotes political action on behalf of the state’s hunting community.

WDFW Fee Hike Bills Get Support During Public Hearings, But Concerns Raised Too

Washington lawmakers heard arguments for and not-quite-fully-against on a pair of bills that would increase fishing and hunting license fees by 15 percent during public hearings held late this week.

While nobody spoke out directly in opposition to HB 1708 or SB 5692, a representative for the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and Northwest Marine Trade Association said the organizations were concerned about them.

“If I leave you with one message today, it is this is not about the money,” said Carl Burke. “We’ve always been willing to pay to play. However, we should not continually — consumptive users — be asked to provide more monies for less opportunity. It’s just that simple.”

He also said the industries needed predictable seasons and more effective inseason management to make decisions on how much inventory they should carry on their shelves and boat lots.

Poor ocean conditions in recent years have made managing salmon and steelhead fisheries very complex for WDFW.

NSIA AND NMTA LOBBYIST CARL BURKE SPEAKS BEFORE SENATORS DURING A PUBLIC HEARING ON A BILL THAT WOULD INCREASE FISHING AND HUNTING LICENSE FEES. (TVW)

And Burke spoke to policies being worked on by the Fish and Wildlife Commission and WDFW that he said put recovery of ESA-listed Columbia salmon runs at risk, a reference to fishery reforms that are now being reconsidered and which has directly led to another bill in the state legislature, SB 5617, which would phase out nontribal gillnets.

He said that lawmakers would be getting a letter more fully outlining NSIA’s and NMTA’s issues and promised to work collaboratively on the bills.


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“We want a well-funded department. We also want a department that is responsive to the public and the needs of the resource. I hope you will look within the budget and fee increase process to make the focus on improving recreational fishing opportunities,” Burke stated.

Scott Sigmon of the Coastal Conservation Association said his organization was officially signed in as “other,” and that CCA’s potential support was linked to increased hatchery production, tying recreational angling fees to recreational fisheries, better fisheries management, and banning nontribal gillnets in salmon waters.

But most of the testimony yesterday afternoon and this morning before the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks and House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committees, respectively, was in full support of the bills.

Tom Echols, representing the Hunters Heritage Council, said WDFW “deserves support of this bill since they haven’t had an increase since 2011.”

Since then, the agency’s budget has seen a growing “structural” deficit in which funding hasn’t kept up with all the things piled onto its plate.

Along with provisions benefiting youths and new sportsmen and -women, the bills include new licensing packages, including a Washington Sportsperson option, “which I will be buying,” said Echols.

It combines Hunt Washington (deer, elk, bear, cougar, small game, migratory bird permit and authorization, plus two turkey tags) and Fish Washington (combo fishing plus two-pole, Dungeness and Columbia endorsements) and would run $245.20, plus dealer fees.

The two options otherwise would run $172.64 and $72.56, pre fee.

While all individual licenses would go up in cost by 15 percent, thanks to Fish and Wildlife Commission concerns, anglers would only end up paying a maximum of $7 more, hunters $15 more.

A LEGISLATIVE ANALYSIS SHOWS HOW MUCH MORE INDIVIDUAL WDFW FISHING AND HUNTING LICENSES WOULD COST UNDER THE FEE INCREASE BILL. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

HHC’s support marks a reversal from 2017 when they were a “no” on that year’s fee hike proposal.

On the fishing side, Jonathan Sawin, skipper of the Cormorant and representing both the Westport and Ilwaco charter boat associations, said he supported the bills as written “so we can continue to have great fisheries on Washington waters.”

Bob Kratzer, vice president of the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association and Forks-area salmon and steelhead guide, said that WDFW is “hamstrung” by budget issues when it comes to hatchery production and enforcement of fish and wildlife laws.

He said that he routinely goes to meetings and hears agency staffers say they don’t have enough money for this or that.

“It’s about time we gave them more money so they can afford it,” he said.

“It’s a new day, we have a new director, I’m willing to give that guy a shot,” said Kratzer.

MEMBERS OF THE CHOUSE RURAL DEVELOPMENT, AGRICULTURE, & NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE LISTEN AS REP. JOEL KRETZ ASKS A QUESTION DURING A HEARING ON A BILL THAT WOULD INCREASE FISHING AND HUNTING LICENSE FEES. (TVW)

When Jim Unsworth’s 2017’s fee increase bid went down in flames, legislators gave WDFW a $10 million General Fund bump but also “homework,” in new Director Kelly Susewind’s words, to review its management practices, perform a zero-based budget analysis and come up with a long-term funding plan.

Out off that came the Budget and Policy Advisory Group, and last week 13 member organizations sent lawmakers a letter urging them to boost WDFW’s budget sharply, with three-quarters of that coming from the General Fund and one-quarter from the proposed license increases.

“To succeed, the Department requires at least $60 million above its present funding (not including expected orca recovery needs), half to fix the shortfall created by the state legislature in the last biennium, and half to invest in the future by helping correct inequities and the damage caused by a decade of underfunding,” the letter stated.

Signees included critical fishing and hunting organizations such as Puget Sound Anglers, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Mule Deer Foundation and Ilwaco Charterboat Association, plus nine other conservation, fishing and environmental groups.

(They also asked for $12.9 million for fish and wildlife conservation and $4.2 million for habitat improvements, “the most underfunded components of the Department’s work,” to be included in WDFW’s operating budget.)

Others testifying in front of lawmakers on Thursday and Friday in favor of the fee bills included Bill Clarke of Trout Unlimited, who was a BPAG member and said it had been interesting to dig into WDFW’s finances.

“Many things have recovered since 2009 — price of housing, the stock market, Seahawks football, Husky football, etc. What’s not recovered is the department’s budget. Their general fund support is not recovered. They’ve had a modest increase, and that’s about it,” Clarke said.

TU also supported the 2017 proposal.

Also appearing before the legislative committees to voice their support were Jen Syrowitz of the Washington Wildlife Federation, Lucas Hart of the Northwest Straits Commission and Aaron Peterson of the Regional Fisheries Coalition.

The bills would also allow the Fish and Wildlife Commission to make small increases to license fees to account for inflation starting two years from now, and Clarke noted that with other state oversight boards already having such authority it made sense for WDFW’s to as well.

Still, Randy Leduc, an avid Centralia angler and CCA member, did express concern that that role would move from the legislature’s bailiwick to the commission.

The House version of the bill was dropped by Rep. Brian Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat.

I’m happy to sponsor the bill and bring it forward. I think there’s been a rigorous process going through the agency’s budget,” Blake said in speaking in support of it.

Still, you could hear the worry from his fellow South Coast representative, Jim Walsh, an Aberdeen Republican.

Walsh asked, would he hear complaints afterwards from his constituents about the fee hike if he supported it?

WDFW’s Susewind could only say that yes, he would, as we sportsmen are just generally against higher prices, but that the agency is responsive to concerns about paying more for less.

“We hear that loud and clear. We’re committed to working on it, continue working on it. Frankly, in order to provide sustainable or hopefully improving opportunities, we really need an adequately funded agency to do that and so that’s what we will put a lot of this money towards is trying to provide that,” Susewind said. “But there will always be people who don’t support a fee. I would be foolish to say otherwise.”

The fee increase bills have a long, long, long way to go before they go into effect. They must be approved and reconciled by representatives and senators and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee. If they are, the hikes and license package options would go become effective 90 days after this legislative session ends, scheduled for April 28 but later is always possible if recent years are any indication.

Editor’s notes: To read the actual fee hike bills, go here and here. For what the hell it all means in plainer English, nonpartisan legislative analysis of the bills are available here and here. And to view the TVW broadcasts of both committees’ public hearings on the bills, go here and here.

Hunter Pink Coming To Washington’s Deer Woods?

Blaze pink may be coming to a Washington deer and elk season near you soon.

A bill that would add that color as a second option to orange, which riflemen and some other hunters must swaddle themselves in partially while afield, had a public hearing in Olympia this afternoon.

SEN. LYNDA WILSON TESTIFIES IN SUPPORT OF HER HUNTER PINK BILL WHILE WEARING A PINK CAMO HUNTING VEST IN THIS SCREENSHOT FROM TVW. (TVW)

Prime sponsor Sen. Lynda Wilson, a Clark County Republican, recalled to fellow senators how she’d first heard that pink can be so much brighter to see in the woods than orange, and added that it might also help bring in more female hunters and revenues for conservation.

“The gear is out there,” she said while testifying before the Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee in a pink camo vest.

The idea behind SB 5148 has been around for several years now.

Other states that have OKed blaze pink include Wisconsin, which was first to do so, Colorado, Louisiana and New York in 2016; Virginia in 2017; and Wyoming and Illinois in 2018.

But Montana lawmakers balked two years ago, and Treasure State hunter Jessica Gray wrote that as a recruiting tool, it was “insulting.”

Back in Olympia, Tom Echols of the Hunters Heritage Council said his organization strongly supported Wilson’s bill.

“While hunter pink is fashionable … that’s not the reason. It’s purely for safety. There is evidence that pink is superior to orange in the field,” Echols said.

In also supporting the bill, David Whipple, WDFW’s Hunter Ed division manager, pointed out that hunting accidents have decreased drastically since states began requiring hunters to wear hunter orange.

“We’re supportive of anything that opens additional doors to hunters as long as it’s safe,” he said.

Essentially, the bill would require the Fish and Wildlife Commission to add pink to the hunts where orange must be worn — during modern firearm deer and elk seasons, overlapping archery and muzzleloader seasons, anyone hunting bears, grouse, etc., in areas where rifle seasons are occurring, and upland bird and game seasons.

Others cosponsoring Wilson’s bill include Sens. Randi Becker (R), Phil Fortunato (R), Guy Palumbo (D), Shelly Short (R), Dean Takko (D), Keith Wagoner (R) and Judy Warnick (R).

Sen. Warnick, who said her husband is a hunter, asked Wilson if sportsmen would have the choice to still wear orange, and Wilson responded that they would.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, the Democratic chair of AWNRP, appeared ready to fast track the bill out of the committee.

Also during today’s public hearing, members heard about SB 5320, which would create a program for training dogs for nonlethal pursuit of predators by vetted houndsmen to protect stock and public safety.

Representatives from the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, Washington Farm Bureau, WDFW, Conservation Northwest and even Humane Society of the United States spoke in favor of it.

There was less support, however, for reestablishing a pilot hound hunting program for cougars in six Eastside counties and one on the Westside.

“A good idea then, a good idea now,” Tom Davis of the Farm Bureau termed SB 5100.

Hunting lions was banned by a statewide initiative but a limited hunt was reinstated by lawmakers and extended twice before expiring in 2011.

WDFW was neutral, with the agency’s Mick Cope telling senators that boot hunting seasons in the affected counties — Chelan, Ferry, Klickitat, Mason, Okanogan, Pend Oreille and Stevens — would have to be looked at.

CBD Wolf Lawsuit ‘A Giant Step Backward For Social Tolerance’ — Hunter

Hunter representatives on Washington’s Wolf Advisory Group are lending their voices to the growing backlash against out-of-state environmentalists’ legal actions temporarily blocking lethal removal of Togo Pack wolves.

“The Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit is a giant step backward for social tolerance and management of wolves on the landscape,” said longtime WAG member Dave Duncan. “Sadly it is all about cash flow.”

TOGO WOLF. (WDFW)

Duncan, of Ellensburg, belongs to Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation, an umbrella organization of sportsmen’s clubs and others around the state.

Last Monday, after WDFW announced it was going to take out one or more members of the northern Ferry County pack for depredations stretching back to last November, including three in a recent 30-day period, CBD of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Oregon got a Thurston County judge to issue a temporary restraining order, blocking implementation of the kill order.

It took several days but anger began to bubble to the surface from other members of the WAG.

On Thursday, Conservation Northwest said it saw “little upside” in going to court because “lawsuits and polarization haven’t worked out well for wolves elsewhere,” and the organization instead called for continued collaboration.

Essentially, the lawsuit is over the hard-won lethal removal protocol that WDFW and the WAG came up with.

“It was really difficult to get through,” Rep. Joel Kretz, a Republican who represents almost all of Northeast Washington, told the Capital Press. “It’s all out the window now.”

County officials and ranchers in this part of the state held a meeting on Friday about what to do.

“When the judge put the restraining order on the department he didn’t put the restraining order on the wolves,” Stevens County commissioner Don Dashiell told the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

WDFW hasn’t reported any more depredations, but last Friday the agency investigated after a livestock producer checking on cattle when collar data showed a wolf near them fired a shot at one in self-defense.

In the meanwhile, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese has scheduled a preliminary injunction hearing for this Friday. That could determine how long the restraining order is in place for.

“I concur with Conservation Northwest, Northeast Washington lawmakers, area county officials, and others speaking against it,” said Mark Pidgeon of Hunters Heritage Council, a political action organization dedicated to hunting, and who is also a longtime WAG member. “I think Representative Kretz’s comments sums it up the situation pretty well: ‘I think it’s a tragedy.'”

I’m going to butt my way into this story to say that when CBD and Cascadia Wildlands inevitably went to court last Monday I actually felt my tolerance level for this whole thing slip a few notches.

Like I told someone, I get that it’s process and I’m not going to suddenly starting spouting SSS, but in these wildly overly politicized times, it boggles my mind why in the hell the two groups would mess with things here.

Jet fuel, anyone? How’d that work out the last time?