What Washington Fish, Wildlife Bills Did, Didn’t Escape Olympia Deadline?

Next month has its Ides, this month its terrible twos — 2-22.

Today, Feb. 22, is cutoff day for many bills to get out of their initial legislative committees in Olympia, and the rush has been on to move as many as possible.

Fresh from shoveling out their driveways earlier this month, House and Senate lawmakers have been busy the past 20 hours working on a blizzard of fishing- and hunting-related bills.

Thursday afternoon saw a scaled-down version of the nontribal gillnet bill get out of a Senate committee, and this morning one addressing the status of wolves in Washington scraped out of another in the House by a bit more than the hair of its chinny, chin chin, while an early vote on WDFW’s fee increase bid received a bipartisan do-pass recommendation.

The Olympia Outsider’s™ slightly more professional colleague, the Shoreline Scrivener™, already reported on the net bill yesterday, but HB 2097 was introduced this week and would require WDFW to immediately begin to review the state’s gray wolf population and consider whether the species’ listing should be changed either across Washington or regionally.

Chief sponsor Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) said there wasn’t anything “prescriptive” in the bill and that it wasn’t meant to make “to make people nervous,” but that it raised the possibility of managing distinct wolf populations differently.

“My district has 90 percent of the wolves in the state. I get pictures every day of wolves all over, outside pack boundaries, in backyards,” he said.

Kretz said his constituents are “at the breaking point,” with ranchers telling their kids “you’re an idiot” for wanting to take up the family business and other producers considering folding as wolves and wolf depredations make it harder to operate.

He allowed that members of the House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committee had the power to stop his bill — “Unfortunately it has the letters W-O-L-F, and that makes it the easiest bill to kill in the legislature” — but despite strong concerns about the possibility of delisting voiced by conservation and environmental groups during this morning’s public hearing, when it came time for a vote, it was actually given an 11-3-1 do-pass recommendation, albeit with the understanding that moving it along would give a chance for lawmakers to work with stakeholders to get the bill to a place with more consensus, which has been a hallmark of wolf recovery in Washington.

AS FOR THAT FEE BILL, UNLIKE 2017’S VERSION, this session’s not only got a public hearing but came out of today’s House RDAGNR Committee executive session with a 12-2 do-pass recommendation.

As a NTIB, or necessary to implement budget, bill, it was exempt from today’s deadline, but the vote also served as a key test for it.

During public hearings on it earlier this month, it received no real opposition though there were concerns.

When it came time for lawmakers to discuss the bill before voting, Republican Reps. Tom Dent (Moses Lake), Joe Schmick (Colfax) and Kretz expressed varying levels of support for it (Dent amended it to require WDFW to come up with a youth hunter recruitment plan; Schmick said he wanted more fish up the Snake; Kretz claimed that while there wasn’t anything to hunt in his game-rich district, he recognized the agency’s funding problem).

But fellow conservative Rep. Ed Orcutt (Kalama) came out against it, saying that the General Fund should be tapped instead.

Before calling for votes, Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen), who chairs the committee, said that as a fishing-, hunting- and shellfish-license-buying customer, he was “strongly supporting this bill” as WDFW needs the revenues to manage everything.

Besides Orcutt, the other no was Rep. Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen).

OTHER BILLS HAVE HAD FAR EASIER PATHS THROUGH the state legislature, and the Olympia Outsider™ is awarding the early session’s gold, er, fuschia-colored ribbon to SB 5148, which would add hunter pink to the wardrobe options for rifle hunters, for how fast it has moved.

Like a startled herd of elk, it stampeded clear through two Senate committees, across the floor of the upper chamber (clocking in at 48-0-1 mph) and at last sighting was all the way the hell over in the House with no signs of slowing down.

Matching that pace and probably crossing paths with it somewhere around Chinook Pass, a bill streamlining approval of conservation districts’ fish passage improvement projects rode an atmospheric river out of the House over to the Senate.

Other bills of note (or at least that the OO has time to report on) that have successfully made it to the first deadline include:

HB 1579, which primarily addresses hydraulic code enforcement and saltwater forage fish habitat to help Chinook and orcas; a section that would have declassified bass, walleye and channel catfish was amended to keep them as game fish but requires WDFW to liberalize limits in anadromous waters;

HB 1580 / SB 5577, addressing watching southern resident killer whales from boats; was watered down to not restrict tour licensing to a limited number of entrants;

HB 1824, directs WDFW to apply to NOAA for a permit to take out the maximum number of sea lions to increase salmon survival to benefit orcas;

HB 1516 / SB 5320, would create a program for training dogs for nonlethal pursuit of predators by vetted houndsmen to protect stock and public safety;

HB 1230, would set the cost of licenses for resident sportsmen with a permanent disability confirmed by a doctor, a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner at half what Washington hunters and anglers pay;

HB 1261 / SB 5322, essentially bars suction and other motorized mining in critical salmon habitat;

SB 5404, adds restoring eel grass and kelp beds, as well as native oysters, to streamlined reviews for fish enhancement project funding;

SB 5525, gives WDFW a goal of increasing whitetail deer numbers in Northeast Washington so that late summer surveys fall between 8 and 9 a mile;

HB 1662 / SB 5696, changes the way WDFW compensates counties for the million or so acres it has taken off local tax rolls to match how DNR does it.

And SB 5597, creating a work group to study aerial applications of pesticides on forestlands.

ALL RIGHT, THE O.O.™ HAS TO DO SOME ACTUAL WORK here on the approximately 68,999 other magazines we do, but before he goes, let us have a moment of silence for all the fine ideas that sadly didn’t get out of committee, or get a hearing:

Turning Bainbridge Island (The Wolfiest!) into a wolf sanctuary

 

Barring WDFW from lethally removing livestock-depredating wolves

Banning hounds from being used to track down timber-depredating bears

Asking Congress to open hunting seasons on sea lions

Writing fishing and hunting rights into the state Constitution

Studying human impacts on streambeds

Restarting a pilot hound hunt for cougars in select counties

Increasing South Coast hatchery salmon production

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