Tag Archives: REP BRIAN BLAKE

DNR Lands Study Bill Amended After Outcry; Now Includes Looking At Rec, Enviro Values

UPDATED 4:25 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, at end with two new paragraphs

Part of a bill that would have studied turning certain Washington DNR lands over to counties, leasing them to private timber companies and considered their value as “higher revenue-producing assets” was dropped following outcry from a sportsmen’s group and others.

“We … acknowledge that sustainable financial returns to public schools and other trust beneficiaries are key to maintaining recreational access, including hunting and fishing opportunities, to these state-owned lands,” wrote Bart George, state co-chair of the Washington chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, in comments to lawmakers ahead of their vote on Engrossed Senate Bill 6140 this morning.

“However in our opinion, this amendment goes too far by directing the DNR to explore land transfer or liquidation as possible solutions for underperforming trust lands.”

A 2012 STATE LANDS MAP SHOWS DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES PROPERTIES IN DARK AND LIGHT GREEN. (DNR)

The amendment in question — Section 6 — was not in the original legislation from Sen. Curtis King (R-South-central Washington) when it was introduced in the Senate last month.

After it passed out of his Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee, Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Olympic Peninsula) tacked it on on the floor of the Senate.

It aimed to “evaluate (the Department of Natural Resource’s) lands portfolio and revenue streams, management practices, and transaction processes, and develop options and recommendations designed to ensure the state’s fiduciary duty is being met and increase the amount and stability of revenue from state lands and state forestland over time.”

The bill passed out of the upper chamber on a 43-4-2 vote.

Then it went over to the House, where yesterday the new language stood for its public hearing, in front of the lower chamber’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Most comments focused on Section 6, with support coming from Hampton Lumber of Portland, Washington State Association of Counties, Port of Port Angeles, Washington State School Board Association and the American Forest Resource Council.

Generally speaking, they were for the study as it would provide lawmakers with an understanding of how relatively valuable the state’s timberlands and other trust properties — Eastern Washington aglands, for example — are.

But it was opposed by the Sierra Club and Conservation Northwest, the latter of which had received a reported 400 responses from an action alert it sent out late last week.

Two private citizens also spoke against it, and one suggested that federally approved habitat protection plans for logging on state lands could be brought into question.

A DNR official acknowledged it was hearing quite a bit about Section 6 and “flagged it” for lawmakers.

Tuesday afternoon, AGNR Chair Brian Blake (D-South Coast) said his committee had a lot to consider, and this morning seven amendments had been drawn up for them, including one from Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Olympic Peninsula) that trimmed the scope of the study back.

During discussion, Rep. Vincent Buys (R-Whatcom County) said he recognized recreational values, but that they didn’t fulfill the fiduciary responsibility of state lands.

That is, buying a backpack for hiking DNR roads didn’t contribute to school funding the same way a 32-foot Doug fir section headed down them for the sawmill does.

Still, with millions of acres in holdings across and in every corner of Washington, the state agency’s lands are of immense value beyond the going price for a thousand board-feet of lumber, such as protecting salmon and wildlife habitat.

“Our members depend on public lands and hundreds of them hunt, fish and recreate on Washington state forest lands each year,” noted George in his BHA letter to state representatives.

“These forests are vital not only for timber production, but also for the cultural and natural heritage of Washington hunters and anglers. Legislation including public land transfer provisions, or provisions mandating the ‘study’ of such transfers, presents an unacceptable precedent for our membership and for the future use and enjoyment of Washington’s public forests,” he said.

When it came time for a vote, Chapman’s amendment scrapping studying transfer options was given a do-pass recommendation by a vote of 10-3, with two members excused.

Importantly, his amendment also included looking at DNR lands’ recreational and environmental values in the review.

The committee’s action drew a letter of thanks from 10 environmental organizations, including the two that testified yesterday, as well as Outdoor Research, The Mountaineers and others.

“Our public lands are cherished and heavily utilized by vast numbers of people for recreation, inspiration, and the clean water and other products of a healthy landscape that sets Washington apart,” the letter read in part. “We fully recognize the legitimacy of generating trust revenue by management of these lands, including extractive activities. But we reject any view that would subordinate to extraction much of the value the public gains from these lands, and put them at risk of mismanagement or even transfer to private entities that would lock the public out.”

Wolf Translocation Bill Clears Washington House Committee

Translocating wolves around Washington hasn’t gotten much traction in the state Legislature — until today.

A bill prompting the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to use that tool from the agency’s 2011 wolf management plan moved out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this afternoon on a bipartisan 12-3 recommendation.

REPRESENTATIVES BRIAN BLAKE (MIDDLE) AND JOEL KRETZ CHAT BEFORE TODAY’S DO-PASS RECOMMENDATION ON THE LATTER LAWMAKER’S SUBSTITUTE HOUSE BILL 2771, TRANSLOCATION OF WOLVES, AN IDEA WHICH BLAKE WAS IN “VISCERAL OPPOSITION” TO. (TVW)

It’s a victory for Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) who has annually introduced translocation legislation — some bills more serious than others — to capture wolves in Northeast Washington, where they’re relatively plentiful, and ship them to parts of the state where there are few if any packs.

“It’s part of the wolf plan; why aren’t we using it?” Kretz asked during a public hearing yesterday on his HB 2771.

That plan calls for set numbers of successful breeding packs in three regions of Washington, a benchmark that’s only being met east of Highways 97, 17 and 395, with no known pairs in the South Cascades and Olympics Zone as of the count last March.

For its part, WDFW was officially neutral on the bill, not seeing a need with the state’s wolf population growing at 30 percent a year and the drawn-out SEPA process that would come with translocation.

“In Washington, we are seeing wolves disperse naturally — with multiple sightings on the west side of the Cascades. So while we appreciate this tool, we’d prefer to see wolves recolonize the west side of the state naturally,” said Raquel Crosier, the agency’s legislative liaison, via email.

Still, Kretz was looking to instill “a little urgency” with WDFW.

“We have a plethora of wolves in one small geographic area that is highly dependent on the livestock industry,” he told agency wolf manager Donny Martorello who testified. “We can’t wait another three of four years for you guys to decide maybe we should do something.”

REP. JOEL KRETZ’S 7TH LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT, OUTLINED IN RED ON WDFW’S MARCH 2017 WOLF PACK MAP. (WDFW)

Also in support was Tom Davis, representing the state farm bureau and cattlemen’s association.

Conservation Northwest is neutral, according to spokesman Chase Gunnell.

Responding to Wednesday’s comments from WDFW and others, the substitute bill that was passed today clarifies that livestock-depredating and other problem wolves not be part of a translocation program and removes a cap that required it be completed in three years.

The amended legislation also calls on WDFW to make a report to lawmakers by the end of 2020.

That said, the bill is a long way from becoming actual law. It first would need to be passed by the full House, the Senate and then signed by Governor Jay Inslee.

Among those voting against Kretz’s bill was committee Chairman Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen).

Yesterday, he acknowledged the frustrations felt by cattle producers in Northeast Washington but he also told the Capital Press he has “a visceral opposition to translocation.”

Before today’s vote he joked he might be “a lone wolf” with his no vote, but he was joined by his fellow South Coast representative, Jim Walsh, a Republican, and Ed Orcutt, also a Republican who represents much of the rest of Southwest Washington.

Voting yes were Republicans Vincent Buys of Whatcom County, Joel Kretz of Northeast Washington, Tom Dent of Central Washington, Bruce Chandler of the Yakima Valley and Joe Schmick of Southeast Washington, and Democrats Mike Chapman of the Olympic Peninsula, Joe Fitzgibbon of western King County, Kristine Lytton of the San Juan Islands and Bellingham, Eric Pettigrew of Seattle’s Rainier Valley and Renton, June Robinson of Everett and western Snohomish County, Larry Springer of north King County and Derek Stanford of southwest Snohomish County.

Olympia Update: Fishermen Support Boosting Salmon Production For Orcas; More Bills In Play

Top Washington fishing organizations lent strong support to a bill that would raise 10 million more Chinook and other salmon a year — for orcas.

Leaders and representatives from Puget Sound Anglers, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Fish Northwest and Coastal Conservation Association, the salmon fishing ports of Ilwaco and Westport and commercial fleets all spoke in favor of House Bill 2417, which provides $1.55 million in General Fund revenues for the bid to benefit the state’s struggling killer whale population.

A MEMBER OF A SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALE POD FLICKS ITS TAIL. (CANDACE EMMONS, NMFS, FLICKR, HTTPS://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC-ND/2.0/)

It’s one of two major proposals this session to ramp up salmon production, the other being in Governor Jay Inslee’s budget, which also features fixing up hatcheries to support the goal and increased patrols to protect the marine mammals.

During yesterday’s public hearing on HB 2417 before the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, PSA’s Ron Garner called orcas “one of the neatest animals in the world” and shared up-close encounters as the whales chased salmon against his fishing boat to catch their dinner.

“I think this is a time when all of us to come together — the tribes, the commercials, the recreationals — all of us can come together because we need to save our precious orcas,” said Garner. “It’s a way of life, our fishing, and if we’re able to fish more with it, that’s great, but we can’t let our orcas go extinct on our watch. I think that’s an important thing. I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t support helping our orcas out.”

Butch Smith, representing both the Ilwaco and Westport Charterboat Associations, said, “The ocean salmon fishermen do not want the orca to go extinct, especially when we have the ability to produce salmon to help the orca whale.”

Steve Westrick, skipper of the Westport-based Hula Girl, said that diminishing hatchery production had put orcas close to a tipping point.

“The whole world’s watching us,” said Greg King of Friends of the Cowlitz. “Are we going to let these orcas die and have that blood on our hands? I don’t think we want that, and I support two four one seven.”

The bill also drew support from two representatives from the commercial fishing industry, Greg Mueller of the Washington Trollers Association and Dale Beasley of the Coalition of Coastal Fisheries.

But some like NSIA also called on prime sponsor Rep. Brian Blake, Democrat of Aberdeen, to expand it to include hatcheries in Puget Sound and bump up production goals.

And Garner pointed out that strong harbor seal predation on Chinook smolts also needs to be addressed.

Under the bill’s initial version, the salmon would be raised at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Kalama Falls, Beaver Creek, Naselle, Humptulips, Skookumchuck, and Lake Aberdeen hatcheries.

Penny Becker, WDFW diversity manager, said her agency was in favor of HB 2417.

“We’re committed to ramping up hatchery production to try and deal with this issue of prey availability for southern residents as possible,” she said.

Becker said WDFW was working with Blake on production goals and cautioned that Endangered Species Act issues, Hatchery Review Scientific Group recommendations and broodstock requirements needed to be considered.

Some of those concerns were echoed by retired WDFW Director Phil Anderson, who now sits on the Pacific Salmon Commission and is chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and who also called the bill a “great start.”

“As we’re putting these packages together, looking at all available resources and facilities, that we keep in mind there can be multiple benefits coming from this additional production,” said Anderson. “Orcas is the primary and we ought to be looking and selecting stocks that are most likely to increase the prey base for southern resident killer whales. But we can also build into that strategy looking for economic opportunities in terms of reinforcing recreational and commercial fisheries as we make those selections.”

Nobody spoke against the bill.

Rep. Vincent Buys, a Republican who represents most of Whatcom County outside of southern Bellingham, asked WDFW Hatchery Division Manager Eric Kinne if the state still had the facilities to ramp up production.

“We have taken out some of the infrastructure but most of that infrastructure still exists,” Kinne said.

AGENCY-REQUEST LEGISLATION

As you might expect, HB 2417 isn’t the only fish-, wildlife- and habitat-related bill active in Olympia. Between state legislators and Department of Fish and Wildlife-request bills, there is a host of other proposals out there to flesh out.

Raquel Crosier, who is WDFW’s very busy legislative liason, provided a rundown on three bills the agency has asked for state representatives’ and senators’ help on.

They address sportsman recruitment, ADA accommodations, and a bill that would “fix” another from last year that delivered a “disproportionate” impact on instate guides.

Through the lens of our old friend the Olympia Outsider here’s a look at those and others in play:

Hunting and Fishing Recruitment Bill: With Washington sportsmen aging dramatically, House Bill 2505 and its companion in the Senate, SB 6198, aim to increase participation in fishing and hunting through a multi-pronged approach.

“It raises the youth age for fishers to 16, provides a hunter education graduate coupon of $20 on your first hunting license, and provides the department authority to develop bundled discount license packages (like multiyear or family packages),” Crosier says.

It would also let anglers buy a temporary license to fish during April’s lowland lakes opener instead of requiring a more expensive year-round one.

Recruitment is a big problem for fish and wildlife agencies, and WDFW is no different. According to handout Crosier forwarded, the average age of the state’s hunters and anglers has increased from 46 for both groups in 2007 to 52 and 54, respectively in 2015.

Prime sponsors: Rep. Brian Blake, D, South Coast, Sen. Dean Takko, D, South Coast

Bill status: Public hearing at 8 a.m. Jan. 17 before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: Anything that makes it easier and cheaper to get more people on the water in the woods, thereby helping conservation and, yes, our industry, is a good thing.

ADA Accommodations Bill: HB 2649 aims to make it “easier for disabled hunters and fishers to get into the sport and (improves) the department’s service delivery and accommodations process,” Crosier reports.

“(It) condenses multiple disabled hunting and fishing licenses and permits into one special use permit and expands who can sign disabled hunter and fisher reduced rate and accommodation forms,” she explains.

Prime sponsor: Rep. Andrew Barkis, R, Pierce County

Bill status: Public hearing at 8 a.m. Jan. 17 before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: Another good bill to pass.

Fishing Guide Fee Fiasco Fix Bill: While Washington hunters and anglers were spared fee increases last year, not so with fishing guides. Instate operators saw their license costs more than double, while out-of-state guides received a dramatic price break.

HB 2626 and SB 6317 aim to reverse that.

“The fishing guides got a disproportionate increase compare to other commercial license types,” says Crosier. “Also, we were tracking a court case on nonresident rates as session was going and didn’t quite get the nonresident commercial rates in line with the court-approved model. We are looking at increasing the nonresident rates to set them at the court-approved rate ($385 above the resident rates) and using that savings to reduce the resident fishing guides rates.”

Under the bill, a resident food fish guide license would be reduced from $280 to $210 (it was $130) while the corresponding nonresident fee would go from $355 to $595 (it was $630).

A resident game fish guide license would drop to $305 from $410 while the nonresident one would increase from $485 to $690.

Prime sponsors: Rep. Brian Blake, D, South Coast; Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D, Olympic Peninsula

Bill status: Public hearing at 8 a.m. Jan. 17 before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: Math has never been the OO’s strongest suit, but it should cost much more for nonresident guides to benefit from the state’s fish stocks. This corrects last year’s error.

ALSO PERCOLATING

Beyond those three agency-request bills, there are many more bills prowling the halls of power, including:

HB 2771: “Managing wolves using translocation”

Effect: Directs WDFW to immediately begin capturing and moving wolves from areas where they’re causing livestock depredations — for instance, Northeast Washington — to areas they’re not (yet).

Prime sponsor: Rep. Joel Kretz, R, Northeast Washington

Bill status: Referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: It’s clear Northeast Washington is bearing the brunt of wolf problems, but translocation bills haven’t moved much in recent years, and it’s possible this one won’t either.

HB 2276, SB 6315: “Concerning notification of wildlife transfer, relocation, or introduction into a new location”

Effect: Requires WDFW to hold a public hearing before moving critters to different parts of the state, and there must be 30 days advance notice of that hearing in the communities most affected.

Prime sponsors: Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R, North Cascades; Sen. Ken Wagoner, R, North Cascades

Bill status: Public hearing Jan. 11; subject of Jan. 18 House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee executive session.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: Inspired by word that the National Park Service and WDFW would like to move mountain goats from the Olympics to North Cascades, the bill still needs better definition so it doesn’t squelch releases of, say, pheasants or butterflies to state wildlife areas, or suburban-garbage-raiding bears into the woods.

SB 6127: “Improving the management of the state’s halibut fishery”

Effect: WDFW would need to “advocate” for halibut fishing openers to be on consecutive days instead of the opener’s Thursday, Saturday setup. Also sets the price of a halibut catch card at $5, which would go towards monitoring and managing the sport fishery.

Prime sponsors: Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D, Olympic Peninsula

Bill status: Referred to the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: The senator from the Straits has been itching to address halibut fishing for awhile, and now can as the chair of the committee that can hear this bill.

SB 6268, “Creating the orca protection act”

Effect: Requires WDFW to add extra marine patrols to protect baby killer whales, orca feeding areas and pods during the busiest whale-watching weeks of the year.

Prime sponsor: Sen. Kevin Ranker, D, San Juan Islands

Bill status: Referred to the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: Just so long as it’s funded and, say, everyone is policed evenly.

HB 2337: “Concerning civil enforcement of construction projects in state waters”

Effect: Would allow WDFW to issue a stop work order if hydraulic code or other rules were being broken and levy fines of up to $10,000 overall, up from $100 a day.

Prime sponsor: Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D, westernmost King County

Bill status: Public hearing Jan. 11; subject of Jan. 18 House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee executive session.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: From a salmon-friendly perspective, not a bad idea to put a little enforcement behind the rules.

HB 2175, “Concerning natural resource management activities”

Effect: Allows WDFW to sign off on a range of land management activities — brush cutting, grazing, firewood gathering and others — without having to prepare a state environmental impact statement.

Prime sponsor: Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R, Northeast Washington

Bill status: Bill status: Public hearing Jan. 9; subject of Jan. 18 House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee executive session.

OTHER BILLS

In the wake of the Cypress Island netpen failure that led to the escape of upwards of 160,000 Atlantic salmon, a few of which are still turning up, three bills take on aquaculture in Puget Sound.

They would (HB 2418) study existing facilities and report back to the legislature before authorizing more to be built, bar the “cultivation” (HB 2260) of Atlantics in the state’s saltwaters, and prohibit DNR (SB 6086) from signing new or extending existing leases, effectively ending the farming of nonnative fish by 2024.

Of those, the last — sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D, San Juan Islands — has moved the furthest. It’s now in Senate Ways and Means.

An unresolved issue from last year’s lengthy legislative session, the Hirst Decision and its potential effect on rural landowners as well as salmon-bearing waters is the subject of two bills, HB 2740 from Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D, westernmost King County HB 2740 and SB 6091 from Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D, Olympic Peninsula.

The latter has made the most progress; a substitute bill was sent to the Senate floor and there were long negotiations with the legislature’s four main caucuses.

4 Wells Hatchery Workers Fired Following Investigation Into Activities

A high-ranking state lawmaker and a Fish and Wildlife Commissioner are calling for changes within WDFW after reports surfaced that a highly sexualized culture also existed at an Eastern Washington hatchery, where four workers were fired last week.

Two stories out this morning paint an ugly picture of goings-on at the Wells Hatchery on the Upper Columbia, where the manager and three top hatchery specialists allegedly “routinely talked about sex and asked explicit sexual questions of coworkers” and made remarks about “the bodies of women who visited the hatchery.”

The pieces are reported by Walker Orenstein of The News Tribune of Tacoma and Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network.

They’re based on a 30-page report by Daphne R. Schneider and Associates commissioned this March after workers at a nearby hatchery expressed their concerns about alleged behavior at Wells to a WDFW officer.

Northwest Sportsman has filed a public disclosure request for the document, but in the meanwhile the reporters’ articles paint a picture of both the alleged activities and the workers’ defense.

The four men who were fired passed their conversations off as “locker room talk,” but it was allegedly so bad for one coworker that she left for a position elsewhere.

WDFW said that it is not pursuing criminal charges against the quartet “because their misconduct did not appear to rise to that level, agency spokesman Bruce Botka said. Also, the consulting firm did not conclude anyone had been sexually harassed,” Orenstein reported.

They can appeal their removal.

For WDFW, the latest story is effectively a one-two punch.

Early last week, Orenstein and Jenkins reported about a law firm’s investigation of sexual harassment claims at the agency’s Olympia headquarters.

Afterwards, Botka told Northwest Sportsman that “Director Jim Unsworth again today said he has no tolerance for the sorts of allegations that have surfaced in these stories and in this case.”

JIM UNSWORTH. (WDFW)

This latest incident left Unsworth “startled and taken aback” and he felt that the firing of the four would send a strong message throughout WDFW’s 1,500-plus employees.

Certainly, a problem was identified, investigated and action was taken, but some are calling for even more.

Rep. Brian Blake, the chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, which many WDFW-related bills go through, called on WDFW’s overseers to put their foot down.

REP. BRIAN BLAKE, D-ABERDEEN. (TVW)

“The [Fish and Wildlife] Commission who governs this agency needs to step up and through the director communicate very strongly that there needs to be somebody in charge that does have this expertise in the ability to change cultures,” Blake told the newspaper and radio reporters.

One of those members, Commissioner Barbara Baker, who was appointed earlier this year by Governor Jay Inslee, said that even more stringent training is needed, it was reported.

IN THIS TVW SCREENGRAB, WASHINGTON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSIONER BARBARA BAKER SPEAKS BEFORE THE SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES AND PARKS COMMITTEE PUBLIC HEARING ON HER APPOINTMENT TO THE PANEL, SET TO RUN AT LEAST THROUGH 2022. (TVW)

Wells Hatchery is owned by Douglas County PUD and operated by WDFW. It rears hundreds of thousands of summer steelhead, summer Chinook, trout and kokanee for fisheries, as well as sturgeon for conservation programs.

Troublingly, Jenkins’s report mentions possible misuse of state equipment by the former manager, while Orenstein’s article says that the WDFW officer’s initial report suggested hatchery workers had been “coached to provide false numbers for fish stocking records.”

This is not the first time WDFW hatcheries have been in the news for sex-related activities.

In 2012,  Carl E. Jouper, the former manager of the George Adams Hatchery in Mason County, was jailed for 90 days after pleading guilty to voyeurism, putting a camera in the women’s bathroom there.