Tag Archives: washington fish and wildlife commission

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.

WDFW Fish-Hunt Fee Hike, Other Bills Introduced In Olympia

The Olympia Outsider™ almost didn’t file an update this week after — true story — messing up his shoulder really bad while swiping his bus pass on the card reader as he boarded the 41.

The pain!!!!!!!

But duty calls, and so with the muscle relaxants kicking in, here are fish- and wildlife-related bills that Washington lawmakers have introduced this week, as well as a pair three (good grief) that he totally missed from earlier in the session.

Bill: HB 1708 / SB 5692
Title: “Concerning recreational fishing and hunting licenses.”
Sponsors: Reps. Blake, Fitzgibbon, Springer, Irwin, Chandler, Robinson, Riccelli, Lekanoff, Dye, Jinkins, Tarleton / Sens. Rolfes, McCoy, Takko, Wellman
Note: By request of WDFW
Bill digest: Not available, but this is the agency’s fee increase bill and while it would add 15 percent to the base cost for resident fishing and hunting licenses, by request of the Fish and Wildlife Commission it also includes a cap on how much more you’d end up paying overall. “It’s $7 on any combination of fishing licenses,” says Raquel Crosier, WDFW’s legislative liaison. “No fisherman will pay more than $7 more and hunter more than $15 more.” It pushes the age that kids first have to buy a fishing license from 15 to 16 and gives the commission authority to institute small surcharges after two years “to fund inflationary and other increased costs approved by the legislature in the biennial budget.” That could potentially mean “more frequent but smaller adjustments” to the cost of licenses compared to the effect of this bill, which would increase prices for the first time since 2011.

OO analysis: This is the second fee bill WDFW has floated since 2017 and Crosier is optimistic this one will do better than the last one. “It’s getting a lot more positive reach, at least in Olympia,” she notes, adding that some Republicans have even consponsored it this go-around. Overall, the agency is looking for a $67 million budget bump from lawmakers, with about three-quarters of that coming from the General Fund to make up for cuts from it since the Great Recession that haven’t been fully restored. It will be interesting to watch who testifies and what they say when the bills make it to a public hearing.


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Bill: HB 1784
Title: “Concerning wildfire prevention.”
Sponsors: Reps. Kretz, Blake
Bill digest: None available but essentially adds “wildfire fuel breaks” to the tools land managers have for preventing catastrophic blow-ups on public ground.
Olympia Outsider™ analysis: Can’t say the OO is against taking better care of areas that also function as critter habitat. A recent DNR blog highlighted how tree thinning and preventative burning on WDFW’s Sherman Creek Wildlife Area and elsewhere nearby helped keep parts of last summer’s Boyds Fire on the forest floor instead of crowning out as it did elsewhere in burning over 4,000 acres.

SEA LIONS GATHER INSIDE THE MOUTH OF THE COWEEMAN RIVER AT KELSO, MOST LIKELY FOLLOWING THE 2016 RUN OF ESA-LISTED EULACHON, OR SMELT, UP THE COLUMBIA RIVER. (SKYLAR MASTERS)

Bill: HB 1824
Title: “Addressing the impacts of pinnipeds on populations of threatened southern resident orca prey.”
Sponsors: Reps. Young, Kloba, MacEwen, Vick, Irwin, Chambers, Lovick, Tarleton
Bill digest: None available, but requires WDFW to file a permit with federal overseers “for the maximum lethal take of sea lions in order to enhance the survival or recovery of salmon species protected in Washington,” meaning ESA-listed Chinook which are a key feedstock for starting orcas.
OO analysis: The bill has cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, including the woman who represents the Ballard Locks, where Herschell et al et all of Lake Washington’s steelhead — see what I did there? California sea lions are at their habitat’s capacity, and a recent analysis estimated that the marine mammals as well as harbor seals and northern orcas have increased their consumption of Chinook from 5 million to 31.5 million fish since 1970. Between that and decreased hatchery production, there are fewer salmon available for SRKWs, not to mention fishermen. While thanks to recent Congressional action, WDFW is already applying for authorization to take out sea lions on portions of the Columbia and its tribs, this appears to call for a broader permit and without all the bother of RCW 43.21C.030(2)(c), something something something about big reports on environmental impacts something something. (Sorry, the Methocarbosomething something is kicking in pretty nicely.)

Bill: HB 1662 / SB 5696
Title: “Concerning payments in lieu of real property taxes.”
Sponsors: Reps. Dent, Springer, Kretz, Blake, Dye, Tharinger, Chandler, Fitzgibbon, Peterson, Fey, Corry, Dufault, Young /  Sens.
Bill digest: None available but according to Crosier it essentially would mirror the way DNR pays counties through the state treasurer, allowing WDFW to more fully compensate counties for the million or so acres it has taken off local tax rolls as it has purchased farms, ranches and timberlands for wildlife areas. Crosier says it sets “a more consistent methodology and pay rate.”
OO analysis: If your eyes are as glazed over as the OO’s, we don’t blame you because this PILT bill is boring as hell, but could be helpful in restoring peace in counties where WDFW land ownership has caused friction and more critter habitat is needed.

THE 4-O WILDLIFE AREA IN ASOTIN COUNTY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Bill: HB 1261 / SB 5322
Title: “Ensuring compliance with the federal clean water act by prohibiting certain discharges into waters of the state.”
Sponsors: Reps. Peterson, Fitzgibbon, Stanford, Tarleton, Ortiz-Self, Lekanoff, Doglio, Macri, Pollet /  Sens. Palumbo, Carlyle, Wellman, Hunt, McCoy, Hasegawa, Kuderer, Nguyen, Saldaña
Bill digest: “Specifies that a discharge to waters of the state from a  motorized or gravity siphon aquatic mining operation is subject to the department of ecology’s authority and the federal clean water act.” Per a press release from Trout Unlimited, which is supporting the bills, the bills would “ban suction dredge mining in Endangered Species Act-designated Critical Habitat for listed salmonids.” Those watersheds include most of Puget Sound; the Cowlitz and other Lower Columbia tribs; Middle and Upper Columbia tribs in Eastern Washington; and Snake River tribs, so, much of the state outside the OlyPen and South Coast river systems.
OO analysis: We’d blame the muscle relaxers for overlooking this pair of bills, but they were actually dropped well before the OO suffered his grievous muscle something something. They’ve been routed to House and Senate environmental committees, where they will have public hearings early next week. Even with mining in my family history, the OO tends to side with fish these days — if the stocks need protection from even catch-and-release angling, they should probably have their habitat protected a little more too.

IMAGES FROM AN INTENT TO SUE NOTICE FROM SEVERAL YEARS AGO ILLUSTRATE TWO ORGANIZATIONS’ CLAIMS THAT WASHINGTON’S SUCTION DREDGING REGULATIONS WEREN’T ENOUGH AT THE TIME WHEN IT CAME TO PROTECTING ESA-LISTED FISH SPECIES.

Bill: HB 5597
Title: “Creating a work group on aerial pesticide applications in forestlands.”
Sponsors: Sens. Rolfes, Saldaña, McCoy, Conway, Hasegawa
Bill digest: Unavailable, but per the bill, it would establish a work group comprised of representatives from various state agencies, timber and environmental interests, among others, “to develop recommendations for improving the best management practices for aerial application of pesticides on state and private forestlands.”
OO analysis: Another bill from a couple weeks ago that the OO totally missed (possibly because he was enveloped by a cloud sprayed on the clearcut he reports all this stuff from), but will be an interesting one when it has a public hearing Feb. 7.

AS FOR OTHER BILLS THE OLYMPIA OUTSIDER™ HAS REPORTED ON so far this session, here’s a snapshot of those that have moved one way or another.

HB 1036, South Coast hatchery salmon production — hearing today in House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources.

HB 1061, Designating razors as the state clam — an open-and-quickly-closed public hearing was held by the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations .

HB 1230, Making more disabled sportsmen eligible for discounted licenses — hearing held and executive session scheduled today by House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources.

SB 5100, Restarting a pilot hound hunt for cougars in select counties — public hearing held by Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks with varying support, opposition and neutralness.

SB 5320, Nonlethal hound training program — hearing held, received widespread support and now scheduled for executive session by Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks today. House version set for public hearing later in February.

SB 5404, Fish habitat enhancement projects definitions — hearing scheduled next week in Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks.

HB 1579 / SB 5580, Chinook habitat protections and declassifying select game fish — public hearing held earlier this week before House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources with strong support from fishermen, tribes, others for major portion of bill addressing hydraulic approvals, but with angler concerns about designation drops for walleye, bass, catfish. Senate version set for hearing next week.

HB 1580 / SB 5577 Vessel disturbance and orcas — public hearing before House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources next week.

SB 5617, banning nontribal gillnets — officially, this bill hasn’t been given a public hearing date since being introduced late last week, but rumor is it will get one before Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks in February.

SSB 5148, OKing hunters to wear pink clothing during certain big, small game seasons — hearing held, received good support and was given a do-pass recommendation by Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks. Now in Senate Rules Committee for a second reading

AND AS FOR THE REST OF THE BILLS WE’RE FOLLOWING but which are awaiting committee assignments before the Feb. 22 deadline, those include:

Writing fishing and hunting rights into the state Constitution by a vote of the people — would be nice to get on the ballot, if only Washingtonians could be trusted to vote the right way

Estimating Northeast Washington whitetails — would be nice to get more refined data on the region’s flagtails

Studying human impacts on streambeds — would be nice to know

Turning Bainbridge Island (The Wolfiest!) into a wolf sanctuary — would be nice to visit, but bill not going anywhere

Barring WDFW from lethally removing livestock-depredating wolves — ironically, bill was shot and it limped off and died somewhere on Bainbridge

Banning hounds from being used to track down timber-depredating bears — unlikely to get a hearing

And asking Congress to open hunting seasons on sea lions — not going to happen, even if CNN seems ready to go.

Carpenter Elected As Chair Of Washington Fish-Wildlife Commission; Baker Vice Chair

Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission has a new chair and vice chair.

Larry Carpenter was unanimously elected by his fellow members over the weekend to head up the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s citizen oversight panel, while Barbara Baker will be its vice chair.

LARRY CARPENTER. (WDFW)

Carpenter, who hails from Mt. Vernon, owned Master Marine and has been on the board since 2011, takes over from Brad Smith of Bellingham. He is known as a staunch advocate for fishing and hunting.

Smith, the longest serving member of the commission, nominated Carpenter and was seconded by Dave Graybill of Leavenworth.

According to WDFW’s Tami Lininger, Carpenter’s appointment to the commission has also been extended through Oct. 31, 2020.

Baker, of Olympia and the former clerk of the state House of Representatives, was appointed to the commission in January 2017, making her leap into the vice chairmanship relatively fast compared to others in recent years.

The previous two vice chairs — Smith and Carpenter — were on the commission four years before being elected to the seat.

Elections take place every other year.

Baker was nominated by Don McIsaac of Hockinson and seconded by Bob Kehoe of Seattle. She too was elected unanimously.

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

Other members of the commission include Kim Thorburn of Spokane and Jay Holzmiller of Anatone.

The ninth seat has been vacant since Jay Kehne of Omak resigned last summer to spend more time with his family and afield.

Washington Wildlife Commission To Hear About Eastside’s Pronghorns

Pronghorns popping up on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission agenda for this weekend’s meetings got my hunter’s heart racing.

“Just a briefing on status or should we look for something along the lines of potential permit hunt development?” I asked state speedgoat manager Richard Harris.

He got back to me pretty quickly and tempered my enthusiasm somewhat.

“Just a briefing, at the request of the Commission. Premature for the latter …,” Harris replied via email.

Dangit!

Still, if you’re interested in the expansion of antelope herds in the eastern half of the Evergreen State, his presentation to the citizen panel does make for some interesting viewing.

Its 26 pages covers the native species’ history, its extirpation by the very early 1900s, and state (mid-1900s) and tribal (2000s) reintroduction efforts, as well as maps showing where those captured in Nevada and released onto the Yakama and Colville Reservations with GPS collars primarily range and have wandered.

Some on the former reservation have gone as far east as I-82 between Tri-Cities and the Columbia, and as far south as almost to the giant landfill above Roosevelt in Klickitat County.

Some on the latter have gone as far south as near the mouth of Moses Coulee.

A HERD OF PRONGHORN ANTELOPE ON ALERT ON THE FROZEN TUNDRA OF NORTHERN DOUGLAS COUNTY, WASH. (ERIC BRAATEN, WDFW)

The presentation also touches on population monitoring (last summer we reported there were roughly 250 out there, and WDFW and the Yakamas are planning another joint late-January survey), landowner issues (pronghorns are prone to alfalfa addictions), and the state’s existing policies.

The request for a briefing came from Commissioner Kim Thorburn of Spokane, and with one-third of the antelope in Washington now occupying ground where WDFW has jurisdiction, Harris will brief the commission on future steps, which includes:

• Preliminary management plans for both Upper Columbia Basin and Lower Columbia Basin pronghorn groups
• Work closely with Tribes to develop complementary plans and strategies
• Public meetings to gather input and suggestions
Whether or not the tribal reintroductions ever result in limited state hunts, it’s still one to keep an eye on if you’re a Washington wildlife world watcher.

 

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Few Washington Fish And Wildlife Commissioners Actively Fish And/Or Hunt

Updated 9:45 a.m. Sept. 23, 2018

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is rather light on active anglers and hunters these days, per a report from a Wenatchee-based radio show host today.

MEMBERS OF THE WASHINGTON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION DURING A RECENT TVW-TELEVISED MEETING. (TVW)

John Kruse of Northwestern Outdoors Radio and America Outdoors Radio says that just one of the eight current members of the citizen panel that oversees and sets policies for the Department of Fish and Wildlife bought a hunting license in 2017 and only three had a fishing license last year.

Commissioner Don McIsaac of Hockinson and the former longtime director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council purchased both while Chair Brad Smith of Bellingham and Dave Graybill, the “fishing magician” of Leavenworth, held the latter.

“Four other commissioners, Robert Kehoe, Barbara Baker, Jay Holzmiller and Kim Thorburn, do not appear to be hunters or recreational anglers based on this license purchasing review and the biographies published about them on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission Web Page,” Kruse wrote in a story.

Kehoe, of Seattle, is the director of a commercial fishing association; Baker is the retired clerk of the state House of Representatives; Holzmiller is an Asotin County rancher and equipment operator; and Thorburn is a retired public health official and Spokane birdwatcher.

The eighth member, Vice Chair Larry Carpenter, a staunch angling advocate, told Kruse he had been a license-buying sportsman for 70 years but hadn’t bought any the past two seasons due to medical issues that kept him from taking to the field and waters around his Mount Vernon home.

The commission usually has nine members, but last month Jay Kehne of Omak resigned to spend more time with his family and afield. He bought hunting and fishing licenses last year.

Kruse says his reporting is based on a public disclosure request that he filed several months ago and follow-up questions with commissioners, and his story comes out after members last month voted to ask state lawmakers to increase license fees by 15 percent during next year’s legislative session. If passed and signed into law, it would be the first hike since 2011.

Hunters and anglers are WDFW’s key constituency, providing roughly one-third of its budget through license fees and federal kickbacks from Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts’ excise taxes on sporting equipment.

And we are also among the electricity rate and sales tax payers who along with state residents help pay the rest of the agency’s bills through local utility contracts to operate hydropower mitigation hatcheries, etc., and the state General Fund.

So it’s an expectation that members of the governor-appointed board are like us. That so relatively few are — at least by 2017 license purchases — will raise eyebrows and elicit concern about representation.

How can they know what’s going on on Chinook streams and in the mule deer mountains, in the duck marshes and on the trout lakes if they’re not out there at some point? And how can they relate to our pain at the pump, per se?

At the same time,  not all of us who identify as hunters and anglers get licenses every year either, what is known in the industry as churn.

There are others out there in the state with a stake in fish, wildlife and wildland management too.

And this is not to say that commissioners who may not fish or hunt aren’t looking out for our interests, in one way or another. Earlier this year Thorburn was one of two members wondering loudly if, with Northeast Washington packed with wolves, there wasn’t a way to tweak the statewide management plan to alleviate pressure. The other was Kehne, and ultimately all except Baker signed on to a bid asking agency staffers to look into it. Even if Holzmiller doesn’t fish or hunt, he’s still tuned in to us, as his comments during commission meetings indicate.

The Revised Codes of Washington require that commissioners only be registered voters and be separated geographically from one another. The Washington Administrative Codes say, “In making these appointments, the governor is required to seek to maintain a balance reflecting all aspects of fish and wildlife. Commission members are appointed because they have general knowledge of the habit and distribution of fish and wildlife and are often recommended by interest groups, such as sport fishers, commercial fishers, hunters, private landowners, and environmentalists.”

Kruse’s story comes at a time when WDFW is actually looking for more general public support for its missions, as our interview  with new director Kelly Susewind last month and the agency’s budget proposal for the next biennium make clear.

Where WDFW leaned entirely on sportsmen to pay the freight with its 2016-17 Wild Futures Initiative, which failed badly due to lack of support from sporting groups, the latest ask from the agency puts two-thirds of the onus for new funding on the state General Fund.

That’s a sharp course reversal since the Great Recession put the burden on user fees, but also a recognition of increasing legislative requirements and, as Kruse notes, declining hunter and angler numbers — and dollars — as we age out and opportunities slump due to habitat and other issues.

Hat tip to John for digging up the information.  It’s not like other members are making anti-sportsman decisions, but it will be interesting to see who is appointed to the commission to fill the empty seat. Even as I recognize that WDFW needs broader support, I’d feel more comfortable knowing it was someone like us.

WA Commission To Look At Fee Proposals, Long-term Funding Plan

Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission members will hear in the coming days how WDFW staffers want to balance a looming budget shortfall now estimated at $32.9 million as well as put the agency on a more stable financial footing in the future.

While anglers and hunters will focus on the proposed fee increases — 12 to 15 percent across-the-board hikes or a $10 surcharge — what’s notable is that sportsman dollars would become supplementary to a wider foundation of funding, a “transformative concept.”

“The goal is for 50% or more of the Department’s funding to come from a sustainable, reliable, broad?based revenue source. Currently approximately 18% of the Department’s spending is from the general fund,” reads a recommendation from WDFW’s draft long-term funding presentation to the citizen panel.

It came out of the multistakeholder Budget and Policy Advisory group and is described as a “first step” and “set of ideas” to build upon.

But as 2019-21 legislative proposals are drawn up, the agency’s $65.4 million request does lean more heavily on the General Fund than in the past — approximately two-thirds GF-S, one third user fees.

Figures posted for the commission meeting show that the one-time annual surcharge bowhunters, clam diggers and salmon moochers would pay if lawmakers approve next year would raise $20.3 million, the 15 percent hike $18.9 million and 12 percent $16.1 million.

With the failed Wild Futures Initiative in 2016-17, sportsmen bore the entire lift of the package, and coming out of the Great Recession in 2010 one top manager told me WDFW was “making a concerted effort to make itself less dependent on the General Fund.”

The agency’s funding issues are “structural” in that state appropriations, license revenues and ESA requirements are not keeping up with the costs. Last year, after giving it a $10 milllion bump from the General Fund instead of approving Wild Futures, the legislature ordered WDFW to undergo reviews and perform a zero-based budget analysis. It has also identified several million in cuts and efficiencies.

The $65.4 million would go towards maintaining and enhancing fishing and hunting, with $45.5 million from the General Fund, $16.4 million from the license-supported Wildlife Account and $3.6 from the Columbia River endorsement, which needs to be renewed by lawmakers.

After the proposed fee increases were revealed last month, a survey was posted online, and as of the end of July, 556 people had responded.

According to WDFW, 75 percent said that the agency should be supported by the General Fund and that “general taxes should contribute more.”

Other results showed:

• 48% were “very unlikely” to support a fee increase
• 43% prefer across-the-board fee increase while 47% prefer the surcharge
• 62% supportive if no fees, pursue GF-S request

The survey is still up, and you can also comment on them in person this Thursday in Olympia when the commission convenes. Public testimony will be taken during presentations on the proposed 2019-21 operating budget.

The meeting continues Friday with the potential for commission action later in the afternoon.

With Orcas In Mind, WA Salmon Hatchery Reform Policy Under Review

Three principles dictating salmon hatchery operations in Washington have been suspended by the Fish and Wildlife Commission during a policy review, a move in part reflecting a “change in attitude” about production practices.

It comes as the state begins to respond in earnest to the plight of southern resident orcas — one of which was reported missing and presumed dead over the weekend, bringing Puget Sound’s population to its lowest point in 30 years.

KIRAN WALGAMOTT PEERS INTO THE RACEWAYS AT THE WALLACE SALMON HATCHERY NEAR GOLD BAR. THE FACILITY REARS SUMMER CHINOOK, COHO AND STEELHEAD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“I’m afraid that a lot of potential sites where there could be Chinook enhancement to increase the prey base for killer whales will be disqualified by our own policy,” said Commissioner Don McIsaac of Hockinson, in Clark County, during Friday’s meeting of the citizen panel.

In mid-March, Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order directing WDFW to increase hatchery production of king salmon, the primary feedstock for resident orcas and the lack of which could be leading to their low reproduction rates.

Vessel traffic and pollution have also been identified as problems.

Saying that after 10 years it was time for a review, McIsaac made the motion to suspend the first three tenets of the commission’s CR 3619, Hatchery and Fishery Reform Policy, including using guidance from the Hatchery Scientific Review Group, and prioritizing broodstock from local watersheds.

He noted that genetic protections for wild Chinook would still be in place through Endangered Species Act restrictions.

“What I wouldn’t want to have anyone to believe is that this would be going back to what was characterized as the Johnny Appleseed days before of no hatchery constraints on operations,” McIsaac said. “We’re looking for good hatchery operations, and so what this is more about is just some slight differences here over the course of the next six months to allow for a good look at this and not to squelch any killer whale initiatives that are out there.”

IN A SCREEN GRAB FROM C-SPAN 3, DONALD McISAAC SPEAKS BEFORE A CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE IN JANUARY 2014. (C-SPAN)

He termed it “a change in attitude about our salmon hatchery policy” and indeed, his six- to 12-month review will look at results of those reforms, updating scientific knowledge and could include “changing language tone about the positive value of hatchery programs,” as well as consider adding mitigation facilities.

While Commissioner Kim Thorburn of Spokane expressed some concern about suspending portions of the policy, Commissioners Jay Holzmiller of Anatone and Larry Carpenter of Mount Vernon voiced their support of it.

“I don’t want to blame anybody here, but what we’re doing now, and I’m not just speaking to HSRG … across the board simply isn’t working. It’s not working for businesses, it’s not working for individuals, it’s not working for state government. The money’s drying up, the salmon are drying up,” said Carpenter.

In 1989, the state, tribes, feds and others released 71 million Chinook; in 2016, just 33 million were, due in part to WDFW budget cuts over the years.

Yet even with ESA listings,  hatchery reforms and millions upon millions spent on habitat work, wild king numbers are still poor, suggesting something different is at play — perhaps density of harbor seals, according to a just-released paper, not releases of clipped Chinook.

“I simply have a forecast in my view that if we don’t make a change in our programs and methodology, that we don’t have more than 10 years left to have a salmon fishery of any kind — of any kind — in this state,” said Carpenter. “Let’s figure something out and get going on it.”

“Of any kind” surely was a reference to tribal fishing, and in a June 14 letter to Inslee, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission lent their considerable weight to the issue.

NWIFC Executive Director Justin Parker wrote that his organization wanted to work with the governor’s office to “develop an appropriate and accountable co-manager scientific review process at the same time that the HSRG’s role is phased out of the State budget language and process.”

Certain elements in WDFW’s appropriations are tied to HSRG.

He suggested that it lacks accountability and process, doesn’t undergo enough peer review scrutiny, diminishing its “credibility,” and is scientifically stagnant.

Where the 1970s’ Boldt Decision split the two fleets for decades, more and more, tribal and recreational fishermen are finding common cause. The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association supported the tribes and feds side against the state of Washington in the culvert case that came before the Supreme Court, and Puget Sound Anglers president Ron Garner recently had the extremely rare honor for a nontribal member — let alone a sport fisherman — of being invited to an NWIFC meeting.

“Over and over I was told, ‘It took some courage for you to come here today.’ It didn’t take courage,” said Garner during public comment last Friday afternoon on HSRG. “It took us running out of fish. We are running out of fish … We are so aligned on our problems it’s nuts. We understand them. It’s going to take us and the tribes to fix them.”

DON PITTWOOD SHOWS OFF A HATCHERY CHINOOK CAUGHT OFF WHIDBEY ISLAND’S POSSESSION POINT DURING THE SUMMER MARK-SELECTIVE FISHERY. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Despite being the newest member of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, it’s the second major salmon-related shift McIsaac’s been involved with this year.

This past winter, with WDFW honchos folding to pressure from the National Marine Fisheries Service on Puget Sound Chinook management and which could have sharply curtailed already-reduced fisheries, he called for a conservation hatchery on a habitat-constrained river system, an example of thinking outside of the box rather than going along for the ride to ruin.

“Much more needs to be done outside of fishery restrictions,” he said at the time.

On Friday afternoon, in a voice vote on McIsaac’s salmon hatchery reform motion, no nays were heard. Afterwards, clapping from the audience could be.

DOE’s Susewind Chosen As New WDFW Director

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission chose Kelly Susewind, of the Department of Ecology, as the new WDFW director.

KELLY SUSEWIND. (WDFW)

In a phone call immediately after the vote late this morning, Susewind told Commission Chair Brad Smith he was “very excited and very nervous.”

Susewind is something of an unknown and wildcard to Washington’s rank and file anglers and hunters, but the commission supported his appointment unanimously.

He has worked for the Department of Ecology for over two and a half decades, most recently as the director of administrative services and environmental policy.

According to a WDFW press release, he originally hails from the Grays Harbor area and went to Washington State University, where he earned a degree in geological engineering.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Washington at an agency whose effectiveness is critical to our ability to conserve fish and wildlife resources while providing outdoor recreation and commercial opportunities throughout the state,” Susewind said in the release. “The public has high expectations for WDFW, and I’m excited about being in a position to deliver the results they deserve.”

Pat Pattillo, who retired a few years ago from the agency after a long career in salmon management and who continues to keep a close eye on fisheries as well as advocates for sport angling, was very positive about the choice and the relative speed at which the process had moved along.

“I believe Kelly has the abilities to lead the department and communicate effectively with the many partners WDFW needs to be successful. Leadership from the top of the agency has been missing over the last two years and while capable managers for fish, wildlife, enforcement and habitat kept the wheels from falling off, it has been an agency without a head,” Pattillo said.

He said that Susewind will know whom he needs to establish relations with —  “the public, legislature, tribes and other management authorities.”

“It will take energy and, from what I’ve heard, he has that capability,” Pattillo said.

Rep. Brian Blake,  the South Coast Democrat in charge of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee which sees many WDFW-related bills, said Susewind had his “full support.”

“He is a lifelong hunter and I expect that he will be a force for positive change at DFW,” he said.

Fellow hunter Commissioner Jay Kehne of Omak nominated “Candidate P,” Susewind, for the position and was seconded by Vice Chair Larry Carpenter of Mount Vernon.

Susewind will oversee a staff of 1,800, land base of 1,400 square miles and harness a $437 million two-year budget to hold and conserve fisheries and hunting opportunities and provide scientific rationale for what it’s doing.

He also must deal with a potential $30 million budget shortfall in 2019-21 that could force the closure of the Omak and Naches trout hatcheries and other potential cuts unless the gap is filled by the legislature.

“He’s a good manager, great people skills and a real CEO type,” said Tom Nelson, co-host of a Seattle outdoors radio show on 710 ESPN.

Susewind’s soon-to-be old boss, DOE’s Maia Bellon, tweeted out her best wishes, “Congratulations, Kelly! Thank you for all the hard work and years of service at @ecologywa. We wish you all the best at @wdfw, and look forward to collaborating with you in your new role.”

When the Fish and Wildlife Commission put out its help wanted ad around four months ago, it said the next director would lead the agency through a “transformative” period.

“Obviously the Commission wants to take the department in an entirely new direction.  Change is very difficult, and taking over WDFW is nearly as complex as taking over a federal resource agency, with many of the same challenges,” said Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. “We welcome the new director and look forward to working with Mr. Susewind on conservation and recovery of our fisheries, growing participation in fishing and protecting the jobs in the sportfishing industry.”

Chair Smith said that “the appointment marks the beginning of a new era in the department’s history” and spoke highly of WDFW staff and what they could all accomplish together.

Susewind begins work Aug. 1 and will be paid an annual salary of $165,000.

Nineteen people applied for the position in the wake of Jim Unsworth’s resignation this past winter. That pool was cut to seven in April and then three last month.

One of the three, Joe Stohr, who has been acting director since Unsworth left,  sat at the end of the long table as the members of the citizen panel made their choice known. He was consoled by Smith after the vote, and after Smith phoned Susewind, Smith publicly added, “Joe, you have all of our respect.”

There will be some who will be unhappy that, once again, a new director is coming from outside the agency.

Commissioner Jay Holzmiller of Anatone likened the panel’s last selection to “a kid getting cocky on a bike.”

“We got our knees and elbows skinned up,” he said before casting his support for Susewind.

One of the primary reasons for Unsworth’s departure was his handling of Puget Sound salmon fishing issues. Some hoped that the new director would come from this world.

“On the fish side, I don’t believe anyone thinks salmonid biology is (Susewind’s) strong suit but he’s a real quick study,” said Nelson, who added, “I think Susewind is a strong choice and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

But there were many issues that came to a head during Unsworth’s term,  which also suffered from the bad luck of coinciding with sharply declining salmon runs due to the North Pacific’s “Blob,”  the pool of warm water that has crushed several years of returns.

Mark Pidgeon said that the Hunters Heritage Council and Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation were welcoming Susewind “with open arms.”

“We think that he will make an outstanding Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. We realize that he is taking over a department facing many crises and he will have many difficult tasks facing him.  Both our organizations look forward to working with him to build a better and brighter future for WDFW,” said Pidgeon.

Among Susewind’s immediate challenges will be that looming budget gap, and as a member of WDFW’s Budget Policy and Advisory Group helping the agency navigate those dangerous straits, Pidgeon advised the new top honcho to “open lines of communications, especially to the hunters and fishers.”

“These users have felt shut out. The best way to bring more money in the coffers is sell more licenses, talk with us and see what we want,” he said.

Pidgeon is also on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group.

“I want the new director to know he can call on me anytime.”

Wanda Clifford of the venerable Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, one of the state’s oldest sporting organizations, also extended that offer of help.

“We are very pleased with the hire of Kelly Susewind and look forward to working with with him. We would hope that Kelly will have a better understanding of the hunting community and the number of hunters that put time and funds into our statewide budget. We feel that in the past the thoughts, needs and suggestions  from the hunting community have not been respected when in reality a large part of the department’s budget comes from the purchase of license and tags, and as a user group are often put on the bottom.”

With INWC based in Spokane, from where it puts on the annual Big Horn Show, and in the corner of the state where most of Washington’s wolves roam, you can bet that the predators were on Clifford’s mind as well.

“We also would like to see our new director work on the large wolf issue that we face here on the east side of the state,” she said, and wished Susewind good luck.

Editor’s note: My apologies for misspellings, etc., pain in the butt to report breaking news and reaction by phone on a weekend.

3 WDFW Director Finalists Named

The names of the three final candidates for the director’s position at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have been unofficially revealed.

The Chinook Observer reports them as Joe Stohr, Jennifer Quan, and Kelly Susewind, names that Northwest Sportsman had also heard independently in recent weeks but did not publish.

After WDFW sent out a press release last week announcing the decision was imminent, the Observer had requested the identities of the finalists from the staff of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, but wrote in a story headlined “Next WDFW Director being selected in secrecy” that it had been “refused.” So the paper subsequently went to “other sources” and updated their story yesterday afternoon with the three names.

Since they are now out there, here is more on the trio:

Stohr has been acting director at WDFW since former director Jim Unsworth left in midwinter. He has held various high-ranking positions at the agency since arriving there in 2007.

Quan was a lands manager and governmental affairs advisor with WDFW, and currently is the Central Puget Sound Branch manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service.

Susewind is more of an unknown and wildcard, at least to Washington’s fishing and hunting world.

He has worked for the Department of Ecology for over two and a half decades, initially as an engineer and is currently the third person on DOE’s contacts page, where he is listed as the director of administrative services and environmental policy.

The revelations of the names will set off more intense jockeying among WDFW’s myriad interest groups as the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission nears its decision on who the next director will be.

That person is expected to lead the agency through a “transformative” period as budget pressures increase, requiring “clear vision, true leadership, and firm decisions” on their part, according to the job posting.

“The Director will be asked to develop effective new approaches to conserving and recovering fisheries resources, while resolving long-standing and increasing conflicts among competing stakeholders,” read just one part of a 10-point list of challenges the director will face.

Whomever is chosen will oversee a staff of 1,800, land base of 1,400 square miles and harness a $437 million two-year budget to hold and conserve fisheries and hunting opportunities and provide scientific rationale for what it’s doing.

The three candidates will be interviewed again by the nine-member citizen panel on Thursday, with a finalist slated to be chosen late Saturday morning.