Editor’s note, 9 a.m. Jan. 4, 2021: Here’s more on a second new member of the commission, Lorna Smith of Port Townsend and executive director of Western Wildlife Outreach.
A new member has been named to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission as three others departed at the end of 2020.
Fred Koontz, who worked on wildlife and conservation issues over three-plus decades, including as vice president of field conservation at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, where he retired in 2017, will join the citizen panel that oversees WDFW on Jan. 4.
Meanwhile, the terms of Dave Graybill, the “fishing magician” of Leavenworth; Bob Kehoe, president of a Seattle-based commercial fishing vessel organization; and longtime commissioner and one-time chair Brad Smith of Bellingham all expired at the end of 2020 and they were not reupped.
Commissioners are appointed by the governor, in this case the recently re-elected Jay Inslee, and King County resident Koontz fills a statewide at-large position in a term slated to run through 2026.
A post on WDFW’s commission page provides some details about Koontz’s varied career, which stretched from the Bronx and other places in New York state, to howler monkey reintroductions in Central America, tracking elephants in Cameroon and a tiger project in Malaysia.
He’s also been a member of several WDFW boards, including the important Budget and Policy Advisory Group that worked on building support for improved funding for the agency.
A 2014 interview Koontz gave on wolves is posted on Western Wildlife Outreach’s website. He’s described as enjoying “hiking, nature observation and playing pickleball,” and is married to a veterinarian.
As for the three members leaving the panel, Smith, a dean emeritus at Western Washington University, was originally appointed way back in June 2009 and was the chair for four years of his 11.5-year tenure.
His was a thoughtful, tempered voice on the commission as it navigated increasingly fraught decisions governing predator management, providing sustainable hunting and fishing opportunities, and balancing social and economic desires with conservation.
An announcement on who will fill Smith’s Western Washington position was expected soon.
Both Kehoe and Graybill were one-term commissioners, filling an at-large and Eastern Washington position, respectively. They were both part of a workgroup that took a hard look at Columbia River salmon fishery reforms, albeit on very opposite sides of the issue. Ultimately outvoted before the full commission, Graybill was still able to move to secure more spring Chinook for Snake River anglers.
You wouldn’t guess it from his residence, but Kehoe was one of two commissioners to vote against banning coyote hunting contests in a 2020 decision, arguing it was a personal decision issue similar to baiting for deer and elk or not and that there was no science to show the competitions jeopardized coyote numbers.
Koontz is sliding into Kehoe’s seat. For the moment, Graybill’s departure leaves only two east-of-the-Cascades members, Kim Thorburn of Spokane and Molly Linville of lower Moses Coulee.
The rest of the commission is comprised of Chair Larry Carpenter of Mount Vernon, Vice Chair Barbara Baker of Olympia, Jim Anderson of Buckley and Don McIsaac of the Vancouver area.
Carpenter’s term technically expired at the end of October. The chairmanships of the panel are up for election at the first primary meeting of the commission in odd years, and this one bears close watching.