Olympia Update: Here Are Legislators’ Fish, Wildlife Bills …
If Washington’s legislature is back in town, so is the Olympia Outsider™!
Well, mostly anyway, what with the restraining order and all, but boy have lawmakers been busy so far at the state capitol!
There’s a bill that would update wardrobe options for Washington rifle deer and elk hunters — gonna be fab! — and another to encourage Congress to open a season on sea lions, while coastal politicians aim to name razors as our state clam and a Pugetropolis pol has dropped the obligatory Westside wolf bill.
And many more are still to come.
“We are still working with the Governor’s Office on the 15 percent fee lift and recruiting bill, along with legislation to implement the orca task force recommendations,” says Raquel Crosier WDFW’s legislative liaison. “I’m expecting to see those bills introduced next week.”
Yes, most bills do go to the legislature to die, but here’s a rundown on fish- and wildlife-related ones that have been introduced so far, along with bill digests from nonpartisan legislative staff and analysis from the highly partisan staff of the Olympia Outsider™:
Bill: HB 1036
Sponsor: Rep. Jim Walsh
Title: Concerning increased fish hatchery production.
Bill digest: “Establishes the Willapa Bay salmon restoration act. Requires the department of fish and wildlife to ensure that hatcheries in Grays Harbor, Pacific, and Wahkiakum counties each produce a certain number of fish.”
OO analysis: WDFW would need to produce as many if not more fish at each of its facilities here as the average number they have over the past two decades, which, needless to say, would increase salmon and steelhead smolt releases fairly significantly but also could conflict with Fish and Wildlife Commission policies. Hatchery increases are definitely on lawmakers’ agenda this session, but the bill might have better odds with a clearer orca linkage.
Bill: HB 1045
Sponsor: Rep. Sherry Appleton
Title: Prohibiting the lethal removal of gray wolves.
Bill digest: “Prohibits the department of fish and wildlife from authorizing the killing of gray wolves. Allows the department to authorize the nonlethal removal or relocation of gray wolves that are destroying or injuring property, or when nonlethal removal or relocation is necessary for wildlife management or research.”
OO analysis: This bill has essentially been shot dead from the state’s helicopter gunship, but not before an Eastside representative took a shot at Appleton, saying he might introduce a bill to declare her home island, Bainbridge, a wolf preserve.
Bill: HB 1046
Sponsor: Rep. Appleton
Title: Prohibiting hunting with the aid of dogs for certain purposes.
Bill digest: “Prohibits a person from hunting or pursuing black bear, cougar, bobcat, or lynx with the aid of a dog”
OO analysis: If the chair of the committee that this bill has to go through wasn’t from timber-dependent country, it might actually get some traction, given coverage of bear damage hunts and a court case in Thurston County, and that would be a bad thing.
Bill: HB 1061
Sponsors: Reps. Brian Blake and Walsh
Title: “Designating the Pacific razor clam as the state clam.”
Bill digest: See above.
OO analysis: Might be a little tougher, what with just four votes from coastal district representatives and about 38,999,322 from all the reps in Geoduckland — Puget Sound — districts.
Bill: HB 1230
Sponsors: Reps. Andrew Barkis, Blake, Walsh, Laurie Dolan, Beth Doglio and Morgan Irwin
Note: Filed by request of Department of Fish and Wildlife
Title: Broadening the eligibility for a reduced recreational hunting and fishing license rate for resident disabled hunters and fishers.
Bill digest: Unavailable at this writing, but per WDFW’s Crosier: “It broadens the discount to anyone with a permanent disability, instead of the limited disability types we currently have in statute (currently we only provide the discount to those who are in a wheelchair, are legally blind or developmentally disabled). The bill also applies the discount rate of 50% to all of our recreational licenses instead of the limited licenses that are discounted under current law.”
OO analysis: Liking the sounds of this one!
Bill: HB 1341
Sponsors: Reps. Zach Hudgins, Jeff Morris, Gel Tarleton and Doglio
Title: Concerning the use of unmanned aerial systems near certain protected marine species.
Bill digest: None available at this writing, but would bar drones from flying within 200 vertical yards above southern resident killer whales.
OO analysis: Would really add to the concept of a protective no-go bubble around Puget Sound’s starving orcas, but what about drone subs?
Bill: HJM 4001
Sponsor: Rep. Walsh
Title: Requesting that Congress amend further the marine mammal protection act to allow the use of hunting or bounty programs as tools to effectively manage populations of predatory sea lions.
Bill digest: Unavailable at this writing, but see above.
OO analysis: Well, with who knows how long this federal government shutdown is going to impact NOAA’s processing of permits to take out as many as 1100 or so California and Steller sea lions a year in portions of the Columbia and its tribs to reduce their predation on ESA-listed salmon and steelhead … But in reality, while a popular sentiment and CSLs are at their habitat’s capacity, the bill probably won’t get too far because of legislature’s makeup.
Bill: SB 5099
Sponsor: Sen. Tim Sheldon
Title: Establishing recreational target shooting areas on public lands.
Bill digest: “Requires the department of natural resources to: (1) Designate and manage recreational target shooting areas on applicable department-managed lands; (2) Establish designated shooting areas in Mason county, including Tahuya state forest, and in Skagit county; and (3) Work with interested stakeholders to evaluate and designate additional shooting areas on department-managed lands.”
OO analysis: You might say this bill appears to be on target …
Bill: SB 5100
Sponsor: Sen. Sheldon
Title: Concerning a pilot program for cougar control.
Bill digest: “Requires the department of fish and wildlife, in cooperation and collaboration with the county legislative authorities of Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Chelan, Okanogan, Mason, and Klickitat counties, to recommend rules to establish a five-year pilot program within select game management units of these counties, to pursue or kill cougars with the aid of dogs.
Requires the development of dangerous wildlife task teams in each county. Allows the department of fish and wildlife to authorize five seasons in which cougars may be pursued or killed with dogs, subject to conditions of the pilot program. Authorizes a county legislative authority to request inclusion in the pilot project after taking certain actions.”
OO analysis: A good start out of the kennel for this bill — scheduled for a hearing next week in the upper chamber’s Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks.
Bill: SB 5148
Sponsor: Sen. Lynda Wilson
Title: Concerning visible clothing requirements for hunting.
Bill digest: “Requires the fish and wildlife commission to adopt rules determining the times and manner when a person who is hunting must wear fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink clothing.”
OO analysis: WDFW’s Crosier says the bill “focuses on promoting women in hunting through the use of hunters pink – I love this one!” We agree! Scheduled for a hearing next week.
Bill: SB 5320
Sponsors: Senators Dean Takko, Ann Rivers, Lynda Wilson, Kevin Van De Wege, Jim Honeyford, Judy Warnick and Shelly Short
Title: Establishing a nonlethal program within the department of fish and wildlife for the purpose of training dogs.
Bill digest: Unavailable, but speaking to the Capital Press, Rep. Brian Blake of Aberdeen said participants “wouldn’t be allowed to hunt cougars. They’d be allowed to train their dogs so they’d be available for the department.”
OO analysis: We’re hoping this bill will, er, train.