Tag Archives: washington fish and wildlife commission

2 New Members Named To WA Fish-Wildlife Commission

Governor Jay Inslee has appointed two new members to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, a Douglas County rancher and a South Sound administrator.

An official announcement is expected in a day or two, but the new commissioners are Molly Linville and Jim Anderson, Northwest Sportsman has learned.

MOLLY LINVILLE AND JIM ANDERSON WILL JOIN THE NINE-MEMBER CITIZEN PANEL OVERSEEING THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE.

Linville replaces Jay Holzmiller of Asotin County, who has been on the commission since mid-2013 and whose term as one of three Eastern Washington representatives officially expired at the end of last year but has continued to serve on the citizen panel that sets fish and wildlife policy and oversees WDFW.

Anderson moves into a position that has been vacant since Omak’s Jay Kehne resigned last summer to spend more time with his family and field work after six and a half years on the commission.

Linville grew up in Reardan west of Spokane, and attended the University of Montana where she graduated with a degree in wildlife biology and later worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including a stint as the manager of Conboy National Wildlife Refuge in western Klickitat County.

In 2011 she and her husband David took over David’s family’s  6,000-acre KV Ranch in lower Moses Coulee near Palisades. The operation has been the subject of stories in the ag-oriented Capital Press, the Spokane Spokesman-Review and elsewhere.

They describe Molly Linville as the spread’s primary operator and says she practices “low-stress livestock handling” and uses large guard dogs to help protect their herd from predators like cougars, which are attracted to the area by mule deer and other prey.

She has been on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group since 2015 when the panel of hunters, ranchers, environmentalists and other state residents with a stake in wolf issues was expanded to 18.

Two years ago saw the Sutherland Canyon Fire burn up nearly all of the KV Ranch, and with how rangeland is generally outside fire district borders and wasn’t DNR responsibility to respond to led her to get involved in reforming coverage.

“After the fire, I just needed to be part of the solution,” Linville told the Press and she worked to move a bill in Olympia by “(educating) agency officials on the value of rangelands and the capabilities of local ranchers to be part of an effective fire response,” according to the Spokesman-Review.

While Linville’s strengths on the commission will be ranching, wildlife biology and an Eastern Washington perspective, Anderson’s will be administration, funding and tribal relationships.

The Pierce County resident is currently the secretary of the board of directors of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, which works primarily on restoring habitat and native species in the inland sea, and which describes Anderson as “widely experienced in state and federal budget, appropriation, and legislative processes.”

Some of that will have come from a 20-year term as the executive director of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission between 1985 and 2004, and as its executive adviser until 2011.

NWIFC came out of 1974’s Boldt Decision and represents 20 tribes in fisheries management and other issues.

In a more dated reference, Anderson’s also described by the Washington Water Trust as a board member and “a founding member of the Timber Fish Wildlife Policy Group, Water Resource Forum, Shared Salmon Strategy and the Hatchery Reform Coordinating Committee,” as well as a “board member on the Department of Interior’s Sports Fishing and Boating Partnership Council.”

Last September, John Kruse, a Wenatchee-based radio show host, found that few sitting Fish and Wildlife Commission members hunted and or fished, but according to PSRF’s description, Anderson “enjoys fishing, hunting” and other outdoor activities.

It’s his strong background with tribal interests that makes him an interesting choice of the governor’s to fill one of three statewide at-large positions on the commission.

On the one hand it will give sportsmen and possibly some members of the general public pause as the Fish and Wildlife Commission represents the state’s hunters, anglers and others, and oversees state fish and game harvest, and management.

On the other, with how closely linked state and tribal comanagement is these days, Anderson’s past nexus could help improve high-level relationships during a period of great stress on Washington’s shared natural resources.

Most Fish and Wildlife Commission appointments aren’t very controversial, though when Kehne came on board at the other end of this decade, there was a lot of angst over his relationship with Conservation Northwest. In the end he proved to be a good fit. However, the state Senate, which confirms the governor’s nominations, yanked  environmentalist David Jennings off the panel after four years because he “was too much of a polarizing figure” to sportsmen, in the words of the Republican in charge of a natural resources committee at the time.

Soon both Jim Anderson and Molly Linville will have their chance to prove their abilities on the important body.

Editor’s note: Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune has a good follow-up story on Jay Holzmiller leaving the commission here.

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Columbia River Salmon Policies Subject Of Aug. 1 Public Meeting

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The public is invited to attend a meeting of members of the Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions to discuss next steps in the review of salmon management on the Columbia River.

A GUIDE BOAT HEADS IN TO THE WEST MOORING BASIN AT ASTORIA. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The meeting is scheduled for Aug. 1 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Room located at 4034 Fairview Industrial Dr. S.E. in Salem.

The public is welcome to attend, but public comment will not be taken at the meeting. This meeting will include providing a significant amount of background material. The meeting will also be streamed online.

The Joint-State Columbia River Fishery Policy Review Committee (PRC), made up of members from each state’s commission, is working to find common ground for jointly managed fisheries, and emphasizes having concurrent regulations in these jointly managed waters.

The PRC group began meeting in January, and three additional meetings have been held. Materials from previous meetings can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/commission/joint-policy-review-committee.

“Since the first meeting of this group, department staff from both Oregon and Washington have provided informational material and analysis for review,” said Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River policy coordinator with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

The Aug. 1 meeting will include an overview of Columbia River fishery management, progress to date from the past PRC meetings, and discussions on ways to improve policy and regulatory concurrence between the two states in 2020 and beyond.

The committee is also expected to discuss a schedule for future meetings.

In 2018, WDFW finalized its five-year performance review of the Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy of 2013. That review can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/02029/.

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Skagit-Sauk Steelheading Could Be Cut In 2020 With WDFW’s Budget Woes

There may not be a Skagit-Sauk steelhead catch-and-release season next spring due to WDFW’s growing money woes, a “bitter pill” for the anglers who worked for half a decade to reopen the iconic North Cascades waters.

DRIFT BOATERS COME DOWN A SLIGHT RAPID ON THE SAUK YESTERDAY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The recently reinstated fishery is now on the chopping block as state managers scramble to figure out what to cut coming out of the recent legislative session that only partially filled a shortfall — and which subsequently also ballooned from $7 million to $21 million.

Rich Simms, cofounder of the Wild Steelhead Coalition, said his organization was “deeply disappointed” by the news relayed in an email late last week by WDFW Director Kelly Susewind that Puget Sound’s sole opportunity to fish for wild winter-runs would be “eliminated.”

“While we recognize the difficult budget situation the Department faces and strongly support Olympia ending the underfunding of our fish and wildlife, we believe WDFW should do everything possible to keep the Skagit catch and release steelhead fishery open,” Simms said in a statement.

Closed due to low runs in 2009, returns rebounded several years ago, but because the region’s steelhead are listed under the Endangered Species Act, federal overseers require the fishery to be monitored as part of the state permit, and that costs a pretty penny.

AN ANGLER CASTS A LINE ON THE SKAGIT RIVER AT THE MOUTH OF THE SAUK. (CHASE GUNNELL)

Before this year’s February-April season, WDFW staffers estimated that between hiring a new biologist to oversee the fishery and write reports, bringing on creelers, providing them with rigs and things like waders, and then flying the rivers to double check angler numbers, it would cost around $210,000 a year to provide the opportunity.

The receipts are still being tallied and it is already likely in the neighborhood of $150,000, per district fisheries biologiat Brett Barkdull, but it was also anticipated that that “Cadillac” level of monitoring for the first full season (spring 2018 saw an abbreviated 12-day opener) would likely be backed off in the coming years.

But now, it may be moot.

That there might not be another season for at least the next two years caught the attention of the Fish and Wildlife Commission during a conference call last Friday.

Chair Larry Carpenter of Mount Vernon defended the fishery and pointed out how the group Occupy Skagit had worked diligently with the citizen panel since the early years of this decade to open the rivers again.

“It’s about as clean a fishery as you can imagine. I would really, really object to that being eliminated. I think it’s false economics and I just don’t think it’s going to work into the future,” Carpenter said.

His comments came as commissioners discussed raising the WDFW vacancy rate — the number of agency jobs that are open but purposefully left unfilled — from 4 percent to up to 4.3 percent to save some money.

That idea didn’t go over well with Commissioner Dave Graybill of Leavenworth who related how a Bellingham creel sampler he’d talked to during a recent spot prawn opener was told there was only six month’s salary available for her position but that she could be reassigned away from the town she’s lived in for 22 years.

“We really have to think about the impact of what we’re doing if we consider any other increases to that 4 percent. I would object to any movement that would increase that,” said Graybill.

Also on his mind was the expiration of the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement after lawmakers failed to renew it and which will primarily impact opportunities in his neck of the basin.

“I don’t know where we’re going to find the money to conduct fisheries in my region particularly,” Graybill said.

This year’s runs are poor, so there won’t be much fishing, but just like the Skagit-Sauk, some of those seasons are subject to federally required monitoring.

Commissioner Kim Thorburn of Spokane sympathized with her colleagues.

“These are really hard decisions. Everybody has a favorite fishery and whatever we cut is going to be hurt. As David’s pointed out is, what’s being cut across the board are the Upper Columbia fisheries,” she said.

While funding for those fell victim to state lawmakers not extending the endorsement, money for the Skagit C&R fishery was built into WDFW’s license fee increase proposal to the legislature, which also died.

The steelhead coalition’s Simms blamed the latter failure on organizations that opposed the hike because of “contentious issues and discontent with the Department” — code for the commission’s Lower Columbia salmon reforms pause vote.

A CLIENT OF GUIDE CHRIS SENYOHL SHOWS OFF A WILD WINTER STEELHEAD CAUGHT DURING APRIL 2018’S 12-DAY REOPENING OF THE SKAGIT AND SAUK RIVER. (INTREPID ANGLERS, VIA AL SENYOHL)

Technically, the Skagit money has been on the “enhance opportunities” side of the fee increase ledger, and WDFW Director Susewind told commissioners he would struggle to move it out of what is effectively an optional category over to the “maintain” side.

“We’ve been pretty transparent with folks that, absent money, we’re not going to be able get to the enhancements and that was one of them. We’ll dig in, we’ll do some additional work, but … at some point we have to make the final decision. And we also, frankly, have to quit doing everything that we said we couldn’t do when we don’t get the money,” he said.

Susewind said that leads to credibility issues with lawmakers about the original need, and also results in a poorer work product “which further erodes our credibility.”

But an immense amount of work also went into getting the Skagit-Sauk fishery back — that longterm lobbying Carpenter referenced, staff from not only WDFW but three tribes writing a joint management plan, and the feds weighing and ultimately signing off on the document.

For WSC’s Simms, the Skagit-Sauk fishery is not only an economic driver for mountain towns well off the beaten path in late winter and early spring but the “sustainable” opportunity is a “powerful tool” for conservation.

“Losing this fishery once again after only one full fishing season would be a bitter pill to swallow, especially given the hard work of so many steelhead advocates, many of whom support fish and wildlife funding and other conservation programs,” he said.

THE “FAMILY OF ARCHERS” STATUE IN DARRINGTON MARKS THE ENTRY TO THE I.G.A. STORE, WHERE THE BLOGGER IN CHIEF POINTEDLY STOPPED TO PICK UP (MORE THAN ENOUGH) SUPPLIES DURING AN APRIL OUTING ON THE MIDDLE AND LOWER SAUK RIVER FOR WILD STEELHEAD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Where Barbed Hooks Are, Aren’t Now Allowed For Salmon, Steelhead On Washington’s Columbia System

Updated 3:10 p.m., May 31, 2019 with ODFW press release announcing Columbia hook rule change at bottom

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Anglers on a large portion of the Columbia River and many of its tributaries will no longer be required to use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead beginning June 1.

In March, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission directed the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to make the use of barbless hooks voluntary for salmon and steelhead fisheries in the Columbia River and its tributaries.

Due to Endangered Species Act permitting with NOAA, WDFW is unable to fully lift restrictions on barbed hooks in some areas at this time, including tributaries upstream of McNary Dam, including the Snake River.

Still, barbless hook requirements on salmon and steelhead fishing are being lifted across a broad swath of Washington waters, including the mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 to Chief Joseph Dam, and Columbia River tributaries from Buoy 10 to McNary Dam. Anglers fishing for sturgeon are still required to use barbless hooks.

The restriction on barbed hooks for salmon and steelhead will lift June 1 on the following waters:

A) Barbed hooks allowed for salmon and steelhead:

  1. Blue Creek (Lewis County), from the mouth to Spencer Road
  2. Cispus River (Lewis County)
  3. Columbia River, from a true north/south line through Buoy 10 to Chief Joseph Dam
  4. Coweeman River and tributaries (Cowlitz County)
  5. Cowlitz Falls Reservoir (Lake Scanewa) (Lewis County)
  6. Cowlitz River (Cowlitz County); Barbed hooks are also allowed for cutthroat trout in the Cowlitz River
  7. Drano Lake (Skamania County)
  8. Elochoman River (Wahkiakum County)
  9. Grays River (Wahkiakum County)
  10. Grays River, West Fork (Wahkiakum County)
  11. Kalama River (Cowlitz County)
  12. Klickitat River (Klickitat County)
  13. Lewis River (Clark County)
  14. Rock Creek (Skamania County)
  15. Tilton River (Lewis County)
  16. Toutle River (Cowlitz County)
  17. Toutle River, North Fork (Cowlitz County)
  18. Washougal River (Clark County)
  19. Washougal River, West (North) Fork (Clark/Skamania counties)
  20. White Salmon River (Klickitat/Skamania counties)

B) Selective gear rules still in effect; barbed hooks now allowed:

  1. Abernathy Creek and tributaries (Cowlitz County)
  2. Cedar Creek and tributaries (tributary of N.F. Lewis) (Clark County)
  3. Coal Creek (Cowlitz County)
  4. Delameter Creek (Cowlitz County)
  5. Germany Creek (Cowlitz County) and all tributaries.
  6. Grays River (Wahkiakum County)
  7. Grays River, East Fork (Wahkiakum County)
  8. Grays River, South Fork (Wahkiakum County)
  9. Grays River, West Fork tributaries (Wahkiakum County)
  10. Green River (Cowlitz County)
  11. Hamilton Creek (Skamania County)
  12. Kalama River (Cowlitz County): From 1,000 feet above fishway at upper salmon hatchery to Summers Creek and from the intersection of 6000 and 6420 roads to 6600 Road bridge immediately downstream of Jacks Creek.
  13. Lacamas Creek (Clark County): From mouth to footbridge at lower falls.
  14. Lacamas Creek, tributary of Cowlitz River (Lewis County)
  15. Lewis River, East Fork (Clark/Skamania counties): From mouth to 400 feet below Horseshoe Falls.
  16. Little Washougal River (Clark County)
  17. Mill Creek (Cowlitz County)
  18. Mill Creek (Lewis County): From the mouth to the hatchery road crossing culvert.
  19. Olequa Creek (Lewis/Cowlitz counties)
  20. Outlet Creek (Silver Lake) (Cowlitz County)
  21. Salmon Creek (Clark County): From the mouth to 182nd Avenue Bridge.
  22. Salmon Creek (Lewis County)
  23. Skamokawa Creek (Wahkiakum County)
  24. Stillwater Creek (Lewis County)
  25. Swift Reservoir (Skamania County): From the posted markers approximately 3/8 mile below Eagle Cliff Bridge to the bridge; from the Saturday before Memorial Day through July 15.
  26. Toutle River, North Fork (Cowlitz County):  From the mouth to the posted deadline below the fish collection facility.
  27. Wind River (Skamania County): from 100 feet above Shipherd Falls to Moore Bridge.
  28. White Salmon River (Klickitat/Skamania counties): From the county road bridge below the former location of the powerhouse upstream to Big Brother Falls (river mile 16).

C) Fly fishing only rules still in effect; barbed hooks now allowed:

  1. Kalama River (Cowlitz County): From Summers Creek to the intersection of 6000 and 6420 roads.

This rule will be reflected in the new Washington Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet on July 1, 2019. Anglers are reminded to check the pamphlet for additional regulations and to learn more about selective gear and fly fishing rules. Anglers can also download the Fish Washington mobile app to see up-to-date regulations around the state. Visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/app to learn more.

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

ODFW today adopted temporary rules to allow anglers to use barbed hooks when fishing for salmon, steelhead and trout in the Columbia River beginning Saturday, June 1.

ODFW adopted the rule so Oregon’s fishing regulations will remain concurrent with Washington in the jointly-managed Columbia River. The temporary rule will remain in effect until further notice or until it expires in late November. For it to become a permanent rule, the Fish and Wildlife Commission will need to approve a rule change, which Commissioners are expected to consider at a future meeting.

Anglers have been required to use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon, steelhead, and trout in the Columbia River since 2013. In March, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a recommendation to make the use of barbless hooks voluntary, and Washington Fish and Wildlife implemented the rule to begin June 1.

Rules requiring the use of single-point barbless hooks when fishing for sturgeon in the Columbia River remain in effect for anglers in both states. 

For the latest on Columbia River fishing regulations visit https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/columbia-zone

National Fishing Trade Group Calls On Inslee To Reject Fish Commission’s Columbia Reforms Vote

A major national trade organization is calling Washington’s recent vote to freeze planned Columbia salmon fishery reforms a “significant threat to numerous fish stocks” and is calling on Governor Jay Inslee to reject it.

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE GIVES HIS 2019 STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH EARLIER THIS YEAR. (GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

Expressing concern about putting nontribal commercial gillnetters back on the lower river, a letter from the American Sportfishing Association says doing so “is a move against the best available fisheries science and common-sense conservation efforts. Wasteful fishing practices, such as gillnetting, pose a threat to the long-term solvency of both the commercial and recreational fishing industries alike.”

Numerous Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead stocks are listed under the Endangered Species Act, including Snake fall kings, Idaho summer Chinook, upriver springers, and lower river fall tules, plus some summer-runs and coho.

“The gillnetting issue is great opportunity to show your leadership to the angling community by continuing to be a champion for conservation,” states the letter to Inslee, who launched his 2020 presidential candidacy earlier this month.

It’s a response to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission’s 5-1-2 March 2 move that also pushed catch allocations from 80-20 recreational-nontribal commercial, where they were in 2018, down to 70-30, where they were in 2016 before the reforms began to unravel, and roughly where fall Chinook allocations have also been paused at.

And it comes as former Washington commissioners instrumental in instituting the reforms on the north side of the Columbia sent state lawmakers their own letter that said they were perplexed by the current board’s decision.

Noting how important sportfishing is to the state’s economy — the organization intends to hold a conference in Washington later this year — ASA’s letter in part will remind Inslee of his October 2015 correspondence to then Commission Chair Brad Smith.

In it, Inslee asked the commission to “seek ways to expand public access to the recreational fishery, promote selective fisheries, implement scientifically credible hatchery practices that ensure hatchery production and consider economic factors when setting seasons for both the recreational and commercial fish industry.”

ASA’s letter was sent on behalf of the board of directors. Among its 14 signatories are Dan McDonald of Yakima Bait (full disclosure: a major Northwest Sportsman advertiser), David J. Pfeiffer of Shimano, Zack Swanson of Rapala, Jesse Simpkins of St. Croix Rods, and Bruce Akins of Bassmaster.

“We urge you to support ongoing fisheries conservation in the Columbia River, including protections provided under the Endangered Species Act, by rejecting the WDFW decision on gillnetting in the Columbia River,” they ask Inslee.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Columbia, Oregon’s citizen oversight panel will also take the issue up at its June 6-7 meeting. Oregon Governor Kate Brown says she still supports the reforms and that leading legislators are keeping an eye on “whether the legislative intent of the reforms is reflected in the policies adopted by the commission.”

Editor’s note: The full text of the letter is as follows:

March 14, 2019

The Honorable Jay Inslee
Governor
416 14th Ave SW Olympia, WA 98504

Dear Governor Inslee,

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the American Sportfishing Association, we are writing you to express our concern regarding the recent decision by the Washington Department Fish and Wildlife to reinstate nontribal gillnetting in the Columbia River. The Washington Department Fish and Wildlife’s decision is a significant threat to numerous fish stocks in the Columbia River – including 13 endangered fish species currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. Furthermore, this move will result in dramatically shortened sportfishing seasons.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the nation’s recreational fishing trade association. ASA provides a platform for the recreational fishing industry to have a united voice when emerging laws and policies could significantly impact sportfishing businesses or sportfishing itself. In the US, over 49 million anglers generate over $45 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for over 1 million people. The recreational sporting industry is an important component of Washington’s economy and tourist industries. In the state of Washington, 1 million anglers spent $1.5 billion dollars on fishing annually and the recreational industry supported 15,208 jobs with an overall output of $2.4 billion. As a testament of the importance of Washington to the angling community, later this year ASA will be convening a conference of approximately 250 leaders in the industry, representing numerous companies throughout the country, at Skamania Lodge along the banks of the Columbia River in Washington. The gillnetting issue is great opportunity to show your leadership to the angling community by continuing to be a champion for conservation.

Given the importance of the state to businesses across the country, the sportfishing industry is watching closely the recent deliberations about allowing commercial gillnetting in the Columbia River. This highly controversial move would negatively impact fisheries conservation efforts and impact recreational fisheries from the river’s mouth to the upper Columbia in Eastern Washington. Allowing gillnetting on the Columbia River is a move against the best available fisheries science and common-sense conservation efforts. Wasteful fishing practices, such as gillnetting, pose a threat to the long-term solvency of both the commercial and recreational fishing industries alike. We urge you to support ongoing fisheries conservation in the Columbia River, including protections provided under the Endangered Species Act, by rejecting the WDFW decision on gillnetting in the Columbia River.

Sincerely,

Chris Megan
Publisher
On The Water, LLC

Zack Swanson
General Manager, VP of Sales
Rapala USA

Louis Chemi
COO
Freedom Boat Club

Dan McDonald
President
Yakima Bait Company

Jesse Simpkins
Director of Marketing
St. Croix Rods

Kirk Immens
President
Sportco Marketing, Inc.

Bruce Akin
CEO
B.A.S.S., LLC

Dale Barnes
Division Manager, Marketing
Yamaha Marine Group

Dan Ferris
Publisher
Midwest Outdoors

Steve Smits
President
ZEBCO Brands

Peter Foley
President
Boone Bait Company, Inc.

Patrick M. Gill
CEO
TackleDirect

Carl Liederman
President
Capt. Harry’s Fishing Supply Co., Inc.

Dave J. Pfeiffer
President
Shimano North American Fishing, Inc.

 

NSIA On The Attack After Columbia Reforms Vote As WDFW’s Susewind Defends It

As a major organization in the Northwest fishing world now openly urges its members to oppose WDFW’s fee increase proposal because of the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Columbia reforms vote last weekend, the head of Washington’s agency has issued an extraordinary statement about why it was passed.

WDFW POSTED A STATEMENT FROM DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND ON THE FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION’S COLUMBIA REFORMS VOTE AT TOP LEFT ON ITS WEBPAGE FRIDAY AFTERNOON, THOUGH IT WAS NOT SHARED ON SOCIAL MEDIA AT THIS WRITING. (WDFW)

“These actions are not only important in sustaining the economic viability of the commercial fleet,” reads an explanation from Director Kelly Susewind out this afternoon. “They are also a key factor in maintaining federal support for hatchery production and achieving compliance with WDFW’s hatchery reform policy for the lower Columbia River, because they play an important role in removing excess hatchery fish from wild spawning areas.”

With wild salmon runs overall in rough shape, judging by the myriad Endangered Species Act listings, clipped fish fuel fisheries.

The commission’s 5-1-2 vote in Spokane on Saturday morning essentially keeps nontribal gillnets on the mainstem below Bonneville as well as pushes long-planned spring and summer Chinook allocations from 80-20 recreational-nontribal commercial, where they were in 2018, down to 70-30, where they were in 2016 before the reforms began to unravel, and roughly where fall Chinook allocations have also been paused at.

That infuriated supporters of the half-decade-plus-long process such as the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, which today issued an “urgent industry call to action.”

“Their vote restores year-round non-tribal gillnetting on the Columbia River’s 13 ESA listed stocks, and dramatically shortens sportfishing seasons already pummeled due to drastic declines in salmon and steelhead returns,” an email reads.

Though this year’s coho run looks good, low fall Chinook and B-run steelhead returns could mean another year of restricted fisheries.

NSIA asked its many member companies and individuals to contact their Washington lawmakers to oppose a pair of bills in the legislature that would increase the cost of fishing and hunting licenses by 15 percent and extend a surcharge for fishing the Columbia and tribs.

Previously, the organization as well as Coastal Conservation Association of Washington had been on the fence over WDFW’s proposed fee hike, neither in favor or opposed, rather “other.”

But with the commission vote and the apparent stalling of a nontribal gillnet ban bill in the state legislature, they now appear to be trolling right through WDFW’s lane.

“Tell them [state lawmakers] you oppose the Commission’s decision to abandon the Columbia River Reforms and ask them to oppose House Bill 1708 and Senate Bill 5692 (Columbia River Endorsement and Agency Fee increase) until the agency’s bills are amended to reverse this horrible decision and hold WDFW accountable to implement the reforms,” NSIA’s email reads.

This year WDFW is asking Evergreen State legislators for a $60 million-plus bump to its budget, a quarter of which would come from the license increases, the rest from the General Fund.

And on the Southern Front, members are also being urged to contact Oregon’s governor and commission chair to try and head off changes ahead of a feared vote next week.

“We’ve got to stop this all-out assault on wild fish, sportfishing and our industry!” NSIA states.

A GRAPHIC FROM AN NSIA FACEBOOK POST CALLS ON ANGLERS TO CONTACT GOV. KATE BROWN AHEAD OF THAT STATE’S MARCH 15 FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION MEETING. (NSIA)

An ODFW spokeswoman says that Oregon commissioners involved in the Columbia discussions “may” give the rest of the citizen panel an update at this coming Friday’s meeting.

“No rule making actions will occur,” said Michelle Dennehy via email this evening.

As for Susewind’s WDFW statement, noting the amount of feedback his agency has received this week — confirmed by a source deep in reform issues — it outlines what led up to the commission’s decision.

The director notes that the policy agreed to by both states in 2012 and which began to be implemented in 2013 and included moving gillnetters out of the Lower Columbia and into off-channel areas of the river and testing alternative gear, included “flexibility” in its transitions.

“Despite years of effort, no new off-channel areas have yet been established in our state and none of the alternative gear are fully tested and ready to support a viable commercial fishery (although test results for some options continue to look favorable). That is why the commission took action to extend the gillnet transition period, first in 2017 and again this month,” Susewind’s statement reads.

“The goal of the Columbia River reform policy is to build a future for both recreational and commercial fisheries, not put the commercial fleet out of business,” he continues, pointing out that the recreational spring Chinook allocation has increased from 65 percent to 80 percent.

WDFW’S NEW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND. (WDFW)

That level is scheduled to remain there in 2019, unless a runsize update finds that this year’s poor forecasted run of 99,300 upriver-bound fish is likely to come in at 128,000 and change, which would result in a 70-30 split of what are essentially allowable impacts on ESA-listed salmon.

Susewind also says that the 70-30 rec-comm split of fall Chinook impacts — below WDFW’s 75-25 policy — was meant to ensure concurrency with Oregon salmon managers.

He says that with the annual salmon-season-setting process known as North of Falcon ongoing and wrapping up next month, the Washington commission’s vote was meant to make sure that fishery regulations on the shared river matched up, as well as “to fulfill (the reforms’) objective to ‘enhance the economic well-being’ of the state’s sport and commercial fisheries.”

Susewind claims that delaying the implementation of fall Chinook allocations from the planned 80-20 “would reduce fishing days in 2019 by less than 2 percent, based on model runs from previous years.”

And citing NOAA’s plan to reduce hatchery production in the Lower Columbia due to too many marked fish straying onto the gravel, he says that while “gillnets are not the final answer to this problem … we remain committed to developing new selective methods for commercially harvesting salmon in the Columbia River and implementing the objectives in the Columbia River Basin Salmon Management policy.”

As I’ve reported before, it’s been very rare for a WDFW director to issue statements like this in recent years, but Susewind appears to be bucking that with this and another recent one on the region’s other hot-button issue, wolves.

I appreciate that.

Yes, posting it on a Friday afternoon on the agency’s website but not sharing on social media will allow the agency to say it did put the word out without bearing the brunt of a weekend full of undefended comments on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

But it will not stop the heated debate about how to manage fisheries on the Columbia.

An observer draws attention to a passage about the adopted recommendations and alternatives presented to the full Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission before last weekend’s vote: “There is no substantial difference between the options concerning conservation benefits,” a staff summary reads.

The debate is sure to continue.

Here’s What WDFW Says About Commission’s Columbia Reforms Vote

Editor’s note: On the morning of March 5, 2019, WDFW issued a clarification on their original March 4 press release, tweaking verbiage in the eighth and ninth paragraphs about fall and spring Chinook allocations. This version includes both the original paras in strikethrough and the new paras.

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has agreed to allow the use of gillnets during the fall salmon fishery on the lower Columbia River while state fishery managers work with their Oregon counterparts to develop a joint long-term policy for shared waters.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), took that action and received public comments on proposed hunting seasons for 2019-21 during a public meeting March 1-2 in Spokane.

WASHINGTON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSIONERS BOB KEHOE, DON MCISAAC AND BARBARA BAKER RAISE THEIR HANDS IN VOTING YES TO GO ALONG WITH A SUBPANEL’S RECOMMENDATION ON FREEZING COLUMBIA RIVER SALMON REFORMS AT 2016 LEVELS. ALSO VOTING YES BUT OUT OF THE WDFW VIDEO FRAME WERE KIM THORBURN AND JAY HOLZMILLER. (WDFW)

The commission’s action to extend the use of gillnets was one of a number of recommendations for Columbia River fisheries developed by a joint committee with members of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. Oregon’s full commission will also consider the recommendations when it meets later this month.

Commissioners from both states are working on an overhaul of their respective Columbia River salmon management policies, which are designed to achieve conservation goals for salmon and steelhead, promote orderly fisheries in concurrent waters, and maintain and enhance economic stability in sport and commercial fisheries.


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The change in policy affects allowable commercial fishing gear and the allocation of catch between sport and commercial fisheries, among other adjustments. Conservation measures remain unchanged, and no additional fishing pressure was approved beyond the annual amount allowed in full compliance with all salmon and steelhead Endangered Species Act requirements and sustainable fishery management practices.

VOTING NO WAS COMMISSIONER DAVE GRAYBILL. (WDFW)

The Washington policy, approved in 2013, intended for the commercial fishery to have completed a transition from gillnets to alternative gear this year and be relocated away from mainstem Columbia River areas. However, the use of alternative gear has not yet been refined and the off-channel areas have been determined to be unsuitable.

The commission modified that policy in response to a comprehensive performance review conducted over the past year. Without that action, fishing rules for Washington and Oregon would have been incompatible, because Oregon plans to allow the use of gillnets during the upcoming fall season.

The recommendation approved by the commission at the meeting in Spokane will allow commercial fisheries to proceed similar to 2018. A maximum of 70 percent of the fall chinook catch will be allocated to the recreational fishery, the same amount allocated under Oregon’s policy.

The recommendation approved by the commission at the meeting in Spokane will allow commercial fisheries to proceed similar to 2018. A maximum of 70 percent of the fall chinook catch will be allocated to the recreational fishery, the same amount allocated in 2018.

Washington commissioners also agreed to retain the recreational fishery’s share of 80 percent during the spring chinook fishery. The allocation for the commercial fishery was set at 20 percent with no commercial fishing in the mainstem Columbia River unless the in-season run-size update for upper river spring chinook is more than 129 percent of the pre-season forecast of 99,300 fish.

Washington commissioners also agreed to retain the recreational fishery’s share of 80 percent during the spring chinook fishery for this year. The allocation for the commercial fishery was set at 20 percent with no commercial fishing in the mainstem Columbia River unless the in-season run-size update for upper river spring chinook is more than 129 percent of the pre-season forecast of 99,300 fish.

Additionally, the commission made the use of barbless hooks voluntary in Columbia River fisheries as soon as possible, but no later than June 1, 2019.

Five Washington commissioners voted to approve the recommendation: commissioners Kim Thorburn, Barbara Baker, Robert Kehoe, Donald McIsaac and Jay Holzmiller. Commissioner David Graybill voted “no,” and commissioners Bradley Smith and Larry Carpenter abstained.

AND VOTING TO ABSTAIN IN FAVOR OF CONTINUED DISCUSSIONS WERE CHAIR LARRY CARPENTER AND COMMISSIONER BRAD SMITH. (WDFW)

Details of the motion that passed and more information on the Columbia River Policy Review can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/.

Prior to that decision, the commission was briefed by WDFW wildlife managers and accepted public comments on proposed hunting rules for deer, elk, waterfowl, and other game species. The commission is scheduled to take final action on those proposal at a public meeting April 5-6 in Olympia.

For more information on the season-setting process see https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/seasonsetting/

WDFW Fish Commission Adopts Columbia Subpanel Reform Recommendation; NSIA: ‘No Words’

Updated 3 p.m. March 4 and 10 a.m. March 5, 2019 at bottom with WDFW press release.
Updated 3:10 p.m. March 2, 2019 with reaction from NSIA

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission late this morning voted in favor of a joint-state subpanel’s recommendation to decrease recreational salmon fishing allocations on the Columbia and keep gillnetters on the big river.

THE ASTORIA-MEGLER BRIDGE ARCS OVER THE WEST MOORING BASIN IN ASTORIA DURING 2014’S BUOY 10 FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

A step backwards in terms of the planned fishery reforms that WDFW and ODFW had agreed to and sport anglers and organizations wanted to continue moving forward, the 5-1-2 vote pushes spring and summer Chinook allocations from 80-20 recreational-nontribal commercial, where they were in 2018, down to 70-30, where they were in 2016 before the process began to unravel, and roughly where fall Chinook allocations have also been paused at.

“There are no words to describe the depths of this betrayal to the license-buying public, and to the industry that sends millions in excise tax to the agency and hundreds of millions in taxes to the State of Washington,” said Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. “It’s mystifying how this Commission expects the angling public to support any sort of fee increase in the face of this level of utter disregard? I suspect the people who fund this agency will be in revolt until this shameful vote is overturned.”

Thrown into the bargain is a relaxing of the mandatory barbless hook requirement.


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The vote, held in Spokane, followed 30 to 45 minutes of public input from members of both fleets, as well as deep dives into the program by Washington and Oregon agency staffers that led to the six-member subpanel’s 3-2-1 recommendation vote earlier this week on “Option 1.”

As he did on the subpanel, Commissioner Dave Graybill of Leavenworth voted against it as the full commission took the matter up today in a Ramada conference room.

“I’m not going to accept going backwards,” Graybill said during final comments.

Pointing to low forecasted runs of Chinook this year, he said the Columbia was in “serious trouble” and supporting an increase in nontribal commercial impacts wasn’t something “I can do.”

Voting in favor were Commissioners Bob Kehoe of Seattle, Don McIsaac of Hockinson, Barbara Baker of Olympia, Kim Thorburn of Spokane and Jay Holzmiller of Anatone.

McIsaac, who chaired the subpanel, said that sorting out Columbia management issues ahead of March and April’s North of Falcon salmon-season-setting negotiations was very important and that the change would help achieve concurrency with Oregon in terms of fisheries held on the river.

Spring Chinook allocations will stay at 80-20 this year unless an inseason upriver run update increases the forecast from 99,300 to around 128,000.

Thorburn said there is still work to be done on the policy but that the recommendation most closely aligns with one of the commission’s and it provides economic benefits for all fisheries.

Holzmiller contrasted the infighting between the recreational and commercial fleets with the unified voice of Northeast Washington residents who’d shared their concerns about the region’s whitetail deer and high predator populations with the commission on Friday. In “not wanting to sound like a hippie” from the 1960s, he urged all anglers to work together to figure out how to get more fish back.

Abstaining in favor of holding more discussions were Commissioners Larry Carpenter Mount Vernon and Brad Smith of Bellingham, the current chairman and previous one.

PRC Recommendation
* Option 1 – Transition Period with amendment for spring Chinook
* Transition Period refers to all the allocations and gear types allowed in 2016.
                * Last year moving from gillnets to alternative gear.
* Change from mandatory barbless hooks to voluntary barbless hooks effective as soon as practical but by June 1, 2019 at the latest.
* Good faith progress towards recommending a comprehensive Columbia River salmon fishery policy for 2020 and beyond, to be completed as soon as possible. The policies embodied in this motion are intended to be in place until such comprehensive policy is adopted.
* To be used only in 2019, the motion is amended such that the 80%/20% sport/commercial allocation, with no buffer applied to the commercial share and no mainstem commercial fishing, is to be used unless the Upriver run size update is more than 129% of the Upriver spring Chinook pre-season forecast of 99,300.

THE COLUMBIA REFORMS WERE AGREED TO BY Washington and Oregon back in 2012 and began to be implemented in 2013.

They prioritized developing new alternative nontribal commercial gear in the mainstem, moving netting to off-channel areas near the mouth, and increasing allocation for sportfishers.

Allocations are essentially allowable catch impacts on Endangered Species Act-listed salmon.

In part, the move also aimed to help more wild salmon and steelhead get through to upstream spawning grounds.

But certain aspects have proved difficult to achieve, including the search for alternative gear and finding bays on the Washington side for the net fleet, leading to discontent from commercial interests.

That first led to a pause in the transition for fall Chinook and then a large review of how the whole program has worked and review by the subpanel, which brings us to today’s Washington commission vote.

Oregon’s citizen oversight panel is expected to take it up March 15.

In the end, 70-30 is still above where allocations stood in the so-called 2010-12 “base period,” when they were 60-40, 50-50 and 59-41 on spring, summer and fall Chinook, according to WDFW staff.

But still in the wings is a bill in Olympia, SB 5617, that would ban nontribal gillnetting on the Washington side of the Lower Columbia. If passed and signed into law, that would primarily affect a commercial fishery targeting fall brights above Vancouver.

THE FOLLOWING IS A WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE

Editor’s note: On the morning of March 5, 2019, WDFW issued a clarification on their original March 4 press release, tweaking verbiage in the eighth and ninth paragraphs about fall and spring Chinook allocations. This version includes both the original paras in strikethrough and the new paras.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has agreed to allow the use of gillnets during the fall salmon fishery on the lower Columbia River while state fishery managers work with their Oregon counterparts to develop a joint long-term policy for shared waters.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), took that action and received public comments on proposed hunting seasons for 2019-21 during a public meeting March 1-2 in Spokane.

The commission’s action to extend the use of gillnets was one of a number of recommendations for Columbia River fisheries developed by a joint committee with members of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. Oregon’s full commission will also consider the recommendations when it meets later this month.

Commissioners from both states are working on an overhaul of their respective Columbia River salmon management policies, which are designed to achieve conservation goals for salmon and steelhead, promote orderly fisheries in concurrent waters, and maintain and enhance economic stability in sport and commercial fisheries.

The change in policy affects allowable commercial fishing gear and the allocation of catch between sport and commercial fisheries, among other adjustments. Conservation measures remain unchanged, and no additional fishing pressure was approved beyond the annual amount allowed in full compliance with all salmon and steelhead Endangered Species Act requirements and sustainable fishery management practices.

The Washington policy, approved in 2013, intended for the commercial fishery to have completed a transition from gillnets to alternative gear this year and be relocated away from mainstem Columbia River areas. However, the use of alternative gear has not yet been refined and the off-channel areas have been determined to be unsuitable.

The commission modified that policy in response to a comprehensive performance review conducted over the past year. Without that action, fishing rules for Washington and Oregon would have been incompatible, because Oregon plans to allow the use of gillnets during the upcoming fall season.

The recommendation approved by the commission at the meeting in Spokane will allow commercial fisheries to proceed similar to 2018. A maximum of 70 percent of the fall chinook catch will be allocated to the recreational fishery, the same amount allocated under Oregon’s policy.

The recommendation approved by the commission at the meeting in Spokane will allow commercial fisheries to proceed similar to 2018. A maximum of 70 percent of the fall chinook catch will be allocated to the recreational fishery, the same amount allocated in 2018.

Washington commissioners also agreed to retain the recreational fishery’s share of 80 percent during the spring chinook fishery. The allocation for the commercial fishery was set at 20 percent with no commercial fishing in the mainstem Columbia River unless the in-season run-size update for upper river spring chinook is more than 129 percent of the pre-season forecast of 99,300 fish.

Washington commissioners also agreed to retain the recreational fishery’s share of 80 percent during the spring chinook fishery for this year. The allocation for the commercial fishery was set at 20 percent with no commercial fishing in the mainstem Columbia River unless the in-season run-size update for upper river spring chinook is more than 129 percent of the pre-season forecast of 99,300 fish.

Additionally, the commission made the use of barbless hooks voluntary in Columbia River fisheries as soon as possible, but no later than June 1, 2019.

Five Washington commissioners voted to approve the recommendation: commissioners Kim Thorburn, Barbara Baker, Robert Kehoe, Donald McIsaac and Jay Holzmiller. Commissioner David Graybill voted “no,” and commissioners Bradley Smith and Larry Carpenter abstained.

Details of the motion that passed and more information on the Columbia River Policy Review can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/.

Prior to that decision, the commission was briefed by WDFW wildlife managers and accepted public comments on proposed hunting rules for deer, elk, waterfowl, and other game species. The commission is scheduled to take final action on those proposal at a public meeting April 5-6 in Olympia.

For more information on the season-setting process see https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/seasonsetting/

Columbia Salmon Reforms Subpanel Recommends 2016 Allocations To OR, WA Fish Commissions

Supporters of Columbia River salmon reforms are urging anglers to get in touch with fishery overseers and one state’s lawmakers after a subpanel of the Oregon and Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissions this week voted to revert to 2016 benchmarks.

ANGLERS RUN UPSTREAM DURING THE 2017 SPRING CHINOOK SEASON ON THE COLUMBIA RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“.. Stop bowing to small special interest groups and start leading in managing our fisheries for abundance,” reads a Coastal Conservation Association of Oregon letter posted on Facebook after Tuesday’s recommendation on an amended “Option 1.”

That came out of a six-hour meeting of three members from both states and now goes to the full commissions for consideration and final approval, with Washington possibly deciding as early as tomorrow whether to go along with the pause or not.

Essentially, sport and commercial allocations for spring and summer Chinook would fall back from 2018’s 80-20 to 70-30, the level that fall kings are being fished at, and the transition from gillnet to alternative gear only in the mainstem would be postponed, with both allowable.

Thrown into the bargain is a relaxing of the mandatory barbless hook requirement for anglers “effective as soon as practical but by June 1, 2019 at the latest,” according to a WDFW staff summary.


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Members voting against the proposal were Washington’s Dave Graybill of Leavenworth and Oregon’s Bob Webber of Port Orford.

Voting to recommend it were Bob Kehoe of Seattle, Bruce Buckmaster of Astoria and Holly Akenson of Enterprise.

Hockinson, Washington’s Don McIsaac, who chaired the subpanel, “announced the motion would pass without the Chair voting and did not vote,” according to WDFW documents.

Option 2 would have stuck to Washington’s 2018 policy — 80-20, 80-20, ~75-~25 for spring, summer and fall Chinook with no mainstem gillnets — while Option 3, the “no loss of economic benefit alternative,” had two choices with ~65-~35 splits on fall Chinook with one banning gillnets and the other allowing it.

Under Option 1, 2019 spring Chinook shares would remain at 80-20 unless an inseason update suggests we’ll see more than 128,000 upriver-bound kings, and then 70-30 would come into play.

THE COLUMBIA REFORMS WERE AGREED TO BY Washington and Oregon back in 2012 and began to be implemented in 2013.

They prioritized developing new alternative nontribal commercial gear in the mainstem, moving netting to off-channel areas near the mouth, and increasing allocation for sportfishers.

Allocations are essentially allowable catch impacts on Endangered Species Act-listed salmon.

In part, the move also aimed to help more wild salmon and steelhead get through to upstream spawning grounds.

But certain aspects have proved difficult to achieve, including the search for alternative gear and finding bays on the Washington side for the net fleet, leading to discontent from commercial interests.

That first led to a pause in the transition for fall Chinook and then a large review of how the whole program has worked and review by the subpanel, which brings us to today.

ACCORDING TO WDFW DOCUMENTS, ALL THE POTENTIAL OPTION 1 ALLOCATIONS ARE ABOVE WHERE THEY WERE FOR SPORTFISHERMEN IN THE SO-CALLED 2010-2012 BASE PERIOD, 60-40 ON SPRING CHINOOK, 50-50 SUMMER CHINOOK AND 59-41 ON FALL CHINOOK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

A WDFW STAFF SUMMARY OF THE SUBPANEL’S “RATIONALE” for recommending Option 1 states:

* Comprehensive Evaluation of Washington Policy showed Policy did not work as expected.
* Goal to have concurrent policies for 2019 (and beyond).
* Current WA Policy includes an adaptive management provision –make changes when the assumptions are not met.
* There is no substantial difference between the options regarding conservation benefits.
* No significant change in angler trips between options, and remains above pre-policy baseline.
* Option 1 goes the furthest towards increasing commercial ex-vessel values.
* Original policy goals were good but did not sufficiently employ the adaptive management provisions that were included in the policies.

Subpanel members who opposed it believed it:

* Should not increase allocation for commercial fishery in 2019 due to forecasts.
* Maintain escapement to upriver areas by not increasing commercial allocation

This year’s Columbia Chinook expectations are on the low side, with 99,300 upriver springers and 157,500 overall, 35,900 summer kings and 340,400 fall brights and tules.

EVEN AS ODFW AND WDFW’S FULL COMMISSIONS PONDER this week’s recommendation, a bill active in Washington’s legislature seeks to remove nontribal gillnets from that state’s side of the Columbia.

While three cosponsors — Sens. Mona Das, Joe Nguyen and Emily Randall, all Democrats — appear to have since abandoned it, SB 5617 cleared one committee ahead of last week’s initial bill deadline and has been referred to Senate Ways and Means.

That committee is chaired by Sen. Christine Rolfes (D), who earlier this session spoke in favor of the bill as codifying WDFW policy.

And CCA Oregon has drummed up a letter for fishermen to send to both states’ managers and overseers.

“Over a hundred thousand sport fishers in each state are funding both DFWs while a few dozen are driving reversals to allow antiquated, non selective commercial fishing gear, that was outdated and outlawed in the rest of the state (of Oregon) since the last century,” the letter reads in part.

“I respectfully ask you to please not endorse the proposed changes to allow more commercial gillnet seasons on the river. I also urge you to stop bowing to small special interest groups and start leading in managing our fisheries for abundance.”

And they’ve also come up with information to send to Oregon lawmakers.

AS FOR NEXT STEPS, ON SATURDAY MORNING IN SPOKANE, Washington’s full Fish and Wildlife Commission will take up the subject — here are links to documents WDFW staff has prepared — with Oregon’s expected to on March 15.

The overarching goal is to set concurrent seasons ahead of the bulk of 2019’s fisheries, which are being discussed and set this month and next through the annual North of Falcon salmon-season-setting process.

How it all shakes out will be very interesting. Hold on to your hats, kids.

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.