Tag Archives: rep. mike chapman

Washington Lawmakers Tour Wolf, Wildfire Country In Search Of Solutions


In the past decade, perhaps no two issues have affected local communities, ranchers and families in Northeast Washington more than wolves and wildfires.

Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers joined with legislative staffers, agency officials, local ranchers and federal foresters to discuss the problems, frustrations and potential solutions to these two critical issues.


Members of the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee began their day at the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area Headquarters.  They were welcomed by local legislators, Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda and Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, as well as Kelly Susewind, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  They then listened to WDFW officials describe their animal capture plans, techniques, and equipment.

Afterwards, the legislators drove through scarred and burnt federal forestland on their way to the Deer Creek Summit Campground at the top of Boulder.  There, the lawmakers heard from Republic District Ranger Travis Fletcher.  The group saw the damage done to the forest and then discussed the forest management techniques now being utilized on state land to help prevent massive wildfires.

The tour ended with a stop at a local ranch near Danville to hear from fifth-generation cattle producers about the struggles they are having with wolves.

The ranchers described how the threat of wolves continues to force cattle off the higher elevation grazing areas, leading to an overabundance of dry grasses, which serves as potential fuel for wildfires.  This also places more stress on lowland grazing areas needed for later in the year as well as using up water at lower elevations.

The cattlemen also described their encounters with wolves, their interactions with WDFW officials when going through the “confirmed wolf kill” process, as well as the effects the wolves have on the pregnancy rates and weights of their cows.

“As a state, we’ve got to do better by these communities,” said Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen and chair of the committee.  “We need to be thinking out-of-the box in order to keep our producers whole and ensure these multigenerational ranchers have a chance at staying in business.”

Blake’s committee was invited to tour the region and interact with local community members by Kretz, an outspoken critic of recent forest and wolf management practices.

“It seems we are making some headway with our forest management so that we might have a fighting chance when the next major wildfire strikes our region,” said Kretz.  “But we’re not seeing a lot of progress on the wolf side of things.  My four northern counties have enough wolves to delist in the entire state, but because of political boundaries, it’s not been possible.  My district continues to be held hostage by statewide wolf repopulation expectations.  There are folks here that are barely hanging on.  They can’t wait another three or four years for a solution.  They needed one yesterday.  I’m glad some of our Westside lawmakers traveled across the state to see firsthand the problems we face.”

Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow, said that some of her fondest childhood memories include time spent in Northeast Washington and that committee members acknowledge the urgency of the situation.

“Is there another way, by using increased management methods in the wolf management plan, to address the problems ranchers and cattlemen are facing?” asked Lekanoff.  “What can the Legislature do to better manage the resources or provide the policy, laws, regulations, science, data and funding to help this rural community sustain its way of life with the predators, prey and livestock that all call this place home?  Let us start by changing our terminology and stop calling this the wolf conflict, but rather the Washington State Wolf Management Plan.  We take our commitment of continued economic viability to this rural community seriously and commit to address these issues with urgency.  We are not turning our backs on rural Washington.”

The visit to Northeast Washington by members of the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee was the first to the region in nearly a decade.

“This is a committee that deals with rural issues.  It’s vitally important that committee members get out of Olympia whenever possible in order to see the real-world problems our folks in rural Washington are up against,” said Kretz.  “I’m very grateful for the legislators who made the trip up here.  I’m hopeful that come next legislative session, we can work in a bipartisan fashion to provide relief to my communities.”

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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.”


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.”