Last 3 WDFW Commissioners Receive Do-confirm Votes

Three more Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioners received do-confirm recommendations from a Senate committee, wrapping up this year’s hearings for all nine members.

Chair Barbara Baker of Olympia got a unanimous nod from Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee Sens. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), Jesse Salomon (D-Shoreline), Ron Muzzall (R-Whidbey Island), Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham), Shelly Short (R-Colville), Derek Stanford (D-Bothell), Keith Wagoner (R-Sedro-Woolley) and Judy Warnick (R-Moses Lake).

Steven Parker of Yakima also got a bipartisan buy-in, though Van De Wege and Salomon referred him without recommendation.

But Lorna Smith of Port Townsend – among the commission’s more controversial members – garnered two do-not-confirm votes from Short and Warnick and a without-recommendation from Muzzall, while the other six senators voted in her corner.

The gubernatorial appointments of the three now go to the Rules Committee, which has already moved those of Vice Chair Molly Linville and Commissioners Tim RagenJohn LehmkuhlMelanie Rowland and Jim Anderson to the full Senate’s confirmation calendar. Woody Myers‘s is still in Rules.

According to an article in today’s Spokane Spokesman-Review, the last time all members of the citizen panel that oversees WDFW policies and hires and fires its director were confirmed by the Senate was in 2018 prior to Kelly Susewind being brought in to head up the state agency.

The report states that with Governor Jay Inslee putting more “conservation-minded commissioners” on board, Van De Wege said he had “made a commitment with the governor that I would try and get as many of his appointments confirmed,” according to journalist Eli Francovich.

Commissioners can serve without confirmation.

The article also suggests that Van De Wege “wasn’t thrilled” with doing WDFW the favor of confirming members – Baker is already confirmed by the Senate, but voluntarily underwent another round, which would theoretically bolster her position and agenda on the commission should she be double-stamped – and it’s linked primarily to disagreements over state salmon management on the Lower Columbia.

Earlier this session, Van De Wege floated another bill to ban nontribal gillnets on the mainstem of the river below Bonneville and he has worked to fund the buy back of gillnet licenses and also shift the fleet’s allowable impacts on ESA-listed salmon.

Of note, a proviso in Senate Democrat’s proposed 2023-25 operating budget released today would funnel $500,000 in grants via the state Recreation and Conservation Office to “commercial fishers for the purpose of installing pound nets or fish traps under an approved experimental fishery within Washington waters,” a potential expansion of the pound net fishery being tested by the Wild Fish Conservancy and moving implementation in part out of WDFW’s remit. Under the agency, it has moved slower than some would like. Others worry more pound nets would mean fewer hatchery salmon for upstream fishermen.

Update, March 28, 10:10 a.m.: Subsequent to this blog being posted, updated the vote for Steven Parker to show that Sens. Van De Wege and Salomon referred him without recommendation. The initial version of this blog stated the duo had not voted, which was based on the information available yesterday afternoon on after the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee voted on his appointment.