Commission Appointment Process Criticized As New Members Welcomed
THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON CHAPTER OF BACKCOUNTRY HUNTERS AND ANGLERS AND THE INLAND NORTHWEST WILDLIFE COUNCIL
On Monday, January 24th Washington’s Office of the Governor announced three new commissioners, two of whom will fill five-year terms to oversee the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The appointments fill two open seats and also replace the current Chair, Larry Carpenter, whose term had expired. The appointments came as a surprise to conservation organizations who have been actively trying to engage the commission and the Office of the Governor for months with little traction.
In early December the Washington chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers worked diligently to build a diverse coalition of conservation organizations that submitted a letter to the Governor asking that he appoint qualified individuals representing their interests to the vacant Eastern Washington seat. That coalition included the national organizations Ducks Unlimited, Western Bear Foundation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Sportsmen’s Alliance. Locally, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Wenatchee Sportsmen’s Association, Northwest Sportsmen Club and the Richland Rod and Gun Club signed on to the letter. To our knowledge, none of those organizations were consulted by the Governor’s office or provided recommendations for the candidates which did receive appointments.
“Based on the fact that hunting organizations were surprised by these appointments, we are concerned that the Governor’s office may have also failed to properly consult other key stakeholders including sport fishers and the diversity of tribal resource managers. Any vetting process that fails to include these groups damages the credibility of the appointment process.” Dan Wilson, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
Others seemed to be less shocked by the rapid appointment of these new commissioners. Commissioners Barbara Baker and Lorna Smith were hesitant to revisit the issue of spring bear hunting in a special meeting on January 21st, stating that doing so before new appointments would be poor form, while alluding that the appointments would take place “any day now.” Neither of those commissioners expressed similar concerns regarding their votes while an Eastern Washington seat sat vacant for over a year and Chairman Carpenter’s term expired. At that meeting a formal petition filed by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council was accepted by the commission to revisit Washington’s spring bear season with only Commissioners Baker, Smith and Chair Carpenter voting against the legitimate appeal. Conservationists have celebrated the petition’s success as a path to reopen the ethical hunt opportunity from a robust bear population.
While some stakeholders may have had a say in the final candidates, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers are dismayed that organized groups representing thousands of conservationists were not made aware of these final candidates prior to appointment. As advocates for responsible wildlife management and principal funders of the agency, sportsmen and sportswomen are uniquely informed on the responsibility of the Commissioners to provide unbiased leadership. Outdoor recreation brings all Washingtonians closer to nature, especially those who look to it for sustainable food sources.
Without insight into the candidates or their selection process, conservation groups all look forward to working with the new appointees to strengthen the department and fulfill their mandate. The commission has been rocked by turmoil over the last few years as vocal anti-hunting activists have found a sympathetic contingent within the commission while dismissing department recommendations in decision-making. The new appointees have impressive professional experience, and thought leaders from hunting and fishing look forward to meeting with them to share their relevant experience and insight to collaboratively advance the mission of the WDFW.
“Hunters and anglers have banded together over recent months, setting aside our differences in agreement that the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is threatened in Washington. Our volunteer labor, policy engagement and financial investment in Washington’s wildlife is critical for responsible wildlife policy. It’s a tragic day when our perspective doesn’t have a voice in the selection process, but this strengthens our resolve to engage the commission and government officials on decisions that impact our way of life.” Dan Wilson, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
Editor’s note: For more on this week’s appointments, see our news article, WDFW’s press release, Fish Hunt Northwest’s coverage and discussion on The Outdoor Line.