Tag Archives: sen. kevin van de wege

WDFW License Bills Moving Again As End Of Regular Legislative Session Nears

After hibernating for the past two months, WDFW’s fee bills have woken up and are moving again, but what will emerges from the den that is the Washington legislature remains to be seen.

Both the House and Senate versions include the 15 percent increase to fishing and hunting licenses and extend the Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsement, but also contain sharp differences that will need to be reconciled before the end of the session.

“This is pretty intense, from zero bills moving to two bills moving,” said Raquel Crosier, WDFW’s legislative liaison, this morning.

The upper chamber’s bill would sunset the angling fee hike after six years, extends the endorsement two years instead of four like the House, and would not allow the Fish and Wildlife Commission to impose surcharges to keep up with rising costs.

That’s different from the Senate’s Operating Budget proposal, released earlier this month without any fee increase or the endorsement and which leaned on General Fund instead.

The lower chamber’s bill, which like the House Operating Budget proposal had the hike and endorsement, would limit the commission’s fee-raising authority to only cover costs lawmakers add to WDFW’s gig and no more than 3 percent in any one year.

Though the Senate version presents something of a fiscal cliff in 2025, the fee increase would produce $14.3 million every two years, the endorsement $3 million.

As for WDFW’s big hopes for a big General Fund infusion to pay for its myriad missions, improve its product and dig out of a $31 million shortfall, any new money it receives will likely be allocated for orcas instead, and that is putting the onus squarely on passing a license increase.

The sudden activity on the fee bills after February’s twin hearings comes with the scheduled Sunday, April 28 end of the session and follows a House Appropriations Committee public hearing yesterday afternoon and an executive session in the Senate’s Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee this morning.

During the House hearing on HB 1708, representatives from the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Northwest Marine Trade Association and Coastal Conservation Association along with some anglers — all still smarting from the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Columbia fishery reforms vote early last month, some at louder volumes than others — voiced opposition to the fee bill though generally said they wanted a fully funded WDFW.

NMTA’s George Harris was among those trying to “thread that needle,” saying he couldn’t support the increase because he didn’t believe the agency had followed through on the reforms or mark-selective fisheries.

SPEAKING IN OPPOSITION TO THE FEE BILL DURING THE HOUSE HEARING ON MONDAY APRIL 22 WERE JASON ZITTEL OF ZITTEL’S MARINA NEAR OLYMPIA WHO SAID THE BURDEN OF FUNDING WDFW COULDN’T CONTINUE TO BE PUSHED ONTO LICENSE HOLDERS WHEN THE PROBLEMS ARE STATEWIDE … (TVW)

… AND CARL BURKE, REPRESENTING NMTA AND NSIA, WHO SAID THAT WHILE ANGLERS PROVIDE SIGNIFICANT FUNDING TO WDFW, “THAT DOESN’T SEEM TO MATTER.” (TVW)

Speaking in favor of full funding, however, was Ron Garner, statewide president of Puget Sound Anglers, member of the WDFW budget advisory group that did a deep dive into the agency’s finances and part of the governor’s orca task force.

“This is not enough money for the agency, and one of the problems is, if we do take this $30 million hit or don’t get the $30 million, what hatcheries are going to get cut next?” Garner said.

WDFW has identified five that could be and which together produce 2.6 million salmon, steelhead and trout.

He said where other state agencies had recovered from General Fund cuts due to the Great Recession, WDFW hadn’t.

“To keep them healthy and the outdoors healthy, we really need to fund it,” Garner said.

RON GARNER OF PUGET SOUND ANGLERS VOICED SUPPORT FOR A FULLY FUNDED WDFW DURING THE HEARING … (TVW)

… AND TOM ECHOLS OF THE HUNTERS HERITAGE COUNCIL SAID IT WAS THE FIRST TIME IN HIS SEVEN YEARS WITH THE UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION THAT IT WAS SUPPORTING A FEE BILL, SPECIFICALLY THE HUNTING SIDE, SAYING THEY BELIEVED IT WAS “TIME TO SUPPORT THE DEPARTMENT’S DIRECTION.” (TVW)

Both committees ultimately gave their versions do-pass recommendations after adopting several amendments, which overall mainly dealt with fallout from the Columbia vote.

The House bill now tells the citizen panel to work with Oregon’s to recover salmon and steelhead in the watershed and WDFW to “work to maximize hatchery production throughout the Columbia River, reduce less selective gear types in the mainstem of the Columbia River and improve the effectiveness of off-channel commercial fishing areas.”

“I support fully funding WDFW so that we can restore hatchery production and restore our fisheries,” said prime sponsor Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) this morning.

And in his natural resources committee earlier today, Chair Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) substantially altered the Senate fee bill, SB 5692, to address those Columbia issues.

An effect statement says his amendments:

  • Specifies Columbia River fishery reforms including improving the selectivity of recreational and commercial fisheries, prioritizing main stem recreational fisheries, and transitioning gill net fisheries to enhanced off-channel areas.
  • Restricts main stem gill net fisheries, effective July 1, 2019, to not exceed six days per year for salmon and steelhead below the Bonneville dam.
  • Directs the DFW to establish an observer program to monitor at least 10 % of the nontribal gill net salmon and steelhead catch on the Columbia River.
  • Directs the DFW to fund activities that maintain or enhance current recreational and fishing activities with fees from recreational fishing and hunting, and expires the requirement on July 1, 2025.
  • Authorizes the DFW to approve trial fisheries for the use of alternative gear for the mark-selective harvest of hatchery-reared salmon and to establish permit fees by rule for alternative gear fisheries.
  • Authorizes the use of pound nets to harvest salmon on the Columbia River and sets the license fee at $380 per year for a resident and $765 for a nonresident

Without getting too wonky and in the weeds, the differences between the House and Senate fee bills must be concurred on, passed by the legislature and signed by the governor before any hike goes into effect. It would be the first since 2011.

WDFW’s Crosier forecasted some “tough conversations in the coming five days” as lawmakers will have to come to an agreement on outstanding policy issues including the Columbia, hatcheries, predators and more, and how to fund her agency.

“I’m feeling optimistic,” she said. “I think this is the closest we’ve gotten. There’s motivation (by legislators) to get something passed, and fees will be a big part of it.”

And without getting too high up on my stump, the end package will also need to show hunters and anglers that there is a better future ahead from the negative malaise currently gripping the state’s sportsmen as more than a century and a half of habitat loss, hatchery production reductions, increasing ESA listings and fishery restrictions, social media, and, simply put, other legislative priorities have come home to roost, most obviously in the plight of starving southern resident killer whales that might also symbolize today’s opportunities.

In Passing Out Of Committee, Washington Nontribal Gillnet Phaseout Bill Reduced To Columbia

UPDATED, 3:17 P.M., FEB. 22, 2019 WITH A NEW PARAGRAPH FIVE WITH DETAILS ON THE SENATORS’ VOTE

Washington lawmakers reduced the scope of a bill phasing nontribal gillnets out of state waters, limiting it to the Columbia in passing it out of committee this afternoon just ahead of a crucial cutoff.

An amendment from prime sponsor Sen. Jesse Salomon (D-Shoreline) also shortened the timeframe for implementing SB 5617‘s ban from 2023 to 2021 and trimmed the buyout phases from three to one.

A SCREEN SHOT FROM TVW SHOWS STATE SENATORS DURING TODAY’S COMMITTEE VOTES ON A BILL THAT WOULD PHASE OUT NONTRIBAL GILLNETTING IN THE COLUMBIA RIVER. (TVW)


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Pointing to the volume of public comment both for and against the original bill during a hearing before the Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee, Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) applauded her fellow senator for tweaking it and said it matched the policy WDFW already has in place for the big river.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) agreed, saying it was essentially codifying those rules, and called for a vote on Salomon’s amendment and then for a do-pass recommendation, both of which passed on a voice vote with only one nay heard on the TVW broadcast.

Legislative staff did not return a call inquiring about the vote tally, but subsequent to this story being published it has been posted on the legislature’s webpage that four recommended it pass (Sens. Van De Wege, Salomon, Rolfes and Judy Warnick), two against (Sens. John McCoy and Shelly Short) and one without recommendation (Sen. Jim Honeyford).

This was the last scheduled meeting for the committee before tomorrow’s first legislative cutoff deadline of the session, so it was do or die for the bill.

“This has a long way to go, and we have to stay focused and keep working all the way to the end of session,” said Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, who had been rallying support for it in recent days.

She was also among the 47 who signed in on the bill one way or the other at that hearing earlier this month, and says that even though it was amended, it still “fulfills a critical component of the Columbia River harvest reforms by calling for an end to mainstem nontreaty gillnetting and providing for a buyout.”

State fishery managers in Washington and Oregon had agreed to reform fisheries on the shared river, but that has been thrown into doubt in recent years, with the southern state backing away and some elements not being as effective as expected. A recent letter from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown seems to indicate she is still supportive of the changes championed by former Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Others who spoke up in favor before the committee on Feb. 12 included George Harris of the Northwest Marine Trade Association, who said that conserving and protecting salmon for starving killer whales was important, as well as representatives from Brad’s Killer Fishing Gear, Clark-Skamania Flyfishers, Coastal Conservation Association and Zittel’s Marina near Olympia, among others.

But there was also considerable pushback from gillnetters, seafood processors and several tribal nations too.

Otis Hunsinger, a commercial fisherman, detailed how he tried to move his operations from the Columbia to Puget Sound to get away from the issues there but they were now following him.

“You think we’re not going to fight. We’re going to fight,” added John Hunsinger of Astoria, who argued it would take away jobs.

According to a fact sheet from NSIA, the only nontribal gillnet fishery on the Columbia focuses on fall Chinook and occurs above the Lewis River to avoid impacts on ESA-listed lower river tules.

In pointing to the bill’s 27 cosponsors — more than half the members of the state Senate — Hamilton said she was grateful “for their recognition that nontreaty gillnets are a problem for wild salmon and steelhead, for orca and for the economy, especially when there are alternatives.”

As amended, SB 5617 also directs WDFW to:

  • “Establish a selective gear incentive program that seeks to avoid harvest of non-target species”;
  • And “develop a fee for permits issued for the taking of salmon under the trial or experimental fishery permits.”

Hamilton said that she appreciated the committee’s work on the bill, as most introduced in the legislature don’t receive a hearing let alone pass out of their crucial first committee.

(Tomorrow, time permitting, the Olympia Outsider™ plans to provide an update on how things stand, including a recently introduced bill that would require WDFW to review the status of wolves in Washington and determine whether a change was warranted at the statewide and regional levels.)

“Finally, we thank all of the NSIA members who took the time to phone and write the committee emphasizing the importance of this bill for their employees, and thank our allies at Northwest Marine Trade Association, the Coastal Conservation Association, The Associations of Northwest Steelheaders, and the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association for doing the same. It takes a village, and NSIA businesses are thankful for these partnerships,” she said.

To become law, the bill must first pass its next Senate committee, the full chamber, the House and be signed into law by the governor.

Senators Briefed On Washington’s Wolves, Ongoing Research

No, wolves don’t have rainbows shooting out of their butts, but what is being excreted from the wild canids’ back end had the attention of state senators in Olympia this afternoon.

They learned that among the more than 1,100 scat samples collected in South Cascades by poop-sniffing dogs last year are suggestions that there are indeed wolves in a part of Washington that none are known to occur, key for meeting statewide recovery goals.

A SLIDE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON’S DR. SAMUEL WASSER SHOWS ROUTES HIS DUNG-DETECTION DOGS RAN IN THE CENTRAL AND SOUTH CASCADES AND WHERE THEY FOUND POTENTIAL WOLF POOP THAT IS NOW UNDERGOING FINAL ANALYSIS WITH RESULTS EXPECTED SOON. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

And DNA from wolf doots collected in the state’s wolf-heavy northeast corner paint a highly complex picture of packs’ numbers, diets, movements and even pregnancy rates — one rising pack had three females in the family way, per se, at a single time in a recent winter.

Those were among the highlights of a presentation that Dr. Samuel Wasser of the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology gave to members of Sen. Kevin Van De Wege’s Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee.

IN THIS SCREENSHOT FROM TVW, DR. WASSER POINTS TO A SLIDE IN HIS PRESENTATION BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE. (TVW)

WDFW and other UW officials were also on hand to detail the state of the state’s wolves and provide an update on a  big legislatively funded predator-prey study.

It was an interesting hour or so rich with presentations, graphs, maps that added to what’s known about the wild dogs here.

There were details on the diet of wolves in Pend Oreille and Stevens Counties — primarily deer but also moose and to a much lesser degree elk — as well as coyotes there, including a stronger percentage of moose than you might expect from the diminutive dogs — but are they merely scavenging wolf kills?

Just as senators heard that wolf and coyote densities differ markedly, they also learned that the predator-prey study aims to look at the effect of whether the former reduces numbers of the latter and thus their predation on fawns, as well as sort out the interactions between wolves and cougars and whether the big cats have to kill more often to make up for the wild dogs taking their quarry.

They learned that Washington’s wolf population continues to rise by an average of 30 percent a year, even as 22 have been killed to try and head off livestock depredations that have also occurred at a lower rate than in the Northern Rockies states.

And they saw how collecting dung with dogs and then sequencing it could give much more accurate wolf counts. Two years’ worth from Pend Oreille and Colville Valley packs show at least 60 different wolves and an estimated 68 there between April 2015 and February 2016 and 92 and likely 95 between October 2016 and June 2017.

“The dogs got samples from almost every single wolf,” Wasser said.

While WDFW has been careful to stress that its annual wolf counts are minimums and that more are likely out there, this new information will begin to put up a better ceiling on numbers.

After the presentations senators asked several questions, including one whether it was possible to breed for nondepredating wolves, which Wasser said was impossible.

Chase Gunnell at Conservation Northwest said his organization believes there are north of 150 wolves running around the state and was excited to see the upcoming 2018 year-end census.

“We strongly support the stewardship of these species, and believe wolf conservation and management must find a balance that works in the long run—for wolves, people and all the Northwest’s wildlife,” he said.

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.”

OlyPen Senator Named Natural Resources Committee Chair

A state senator representing a fish- and wildlife-rich part of Washington — and who’s known to dangle a hook there — will head up the committee where WDFW-related issues come before lawmakers.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim was named the chair of Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks by fellow Democrats after last week’s special election in which they picked up a seat and became the majority party in the legislature’s upper chamber.

SENATOR KEVIN VAN DE WEGE REPRESENTS THE 24TH DISTRICT, WHICH ENCOMPASSES ALL OF THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA EXCEPT MASON COUNTY. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

Van De Wege, a firefighter, had been the ranking minority member in former Sen. Kirk Pearson‘s Natural Resources and Parks Committee, and was believed by observers to be interested in the chairmanship.

The senator, who was also a five-term state representative for the sprawling 24th District, enjoys fishing. A quick scan of his personal Facebook feed shows he and family members on the saltwater with bottomfish and salmon. And in March he was among those calling for a seven-day halibut season this year.

Through bills he’s sponsored, Van De Wege has shown an interest in regulating the fishing guide industry, particularly out-of-state entrants, and one he introduced earlier this year addressing Olympic Peninsula rivers led to WDFW’s ongoing meetings around the state on managing salmon and steelhead guiding.

Also this session, he twice voted against Senate Joint Memorial 8009, which called on Washington DC to expedite Puget Sound hatchery reviews.

The committee Van De Wege now heads is where many WDFW-related bills originate in the Senate, and the chair has the power to hold public hearings on them and determine if they advance. This past session, the agency’s fee increase package got zero traction with Pearson in charge. When Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) was chair, he questioned WDFW’s 2012 lethal removal of the Wedge Pack and planned to hold hearings before election results changed the equation and Pearson came in.

Sen. John McCoy, the Tulalip Democrat who was also a member of Natural Resources & Parks, will sit alongside Van De Wege as the committee’s vice chair.

Van De Wege will also serve on Ways & Means and Health & Long Term Care Committees.

“These committees focus on major issues critical to all Washingtonians but particularly critical to 24th District residents,” he said of all his committee assignments in a press release. “I look forward to solving problems confronting residents of our district as well as prioritizing legislation that will lead to stronger households and communities across our state.”