Reforming WDFW Subject Of Midweek Convention
What’s being billed as the “inaugural Washington Fish & Wildlife Management Reform Convention” kicks off tomorrow at noon on Vashon Island and it features some of WDFW’s fiercest courtroom and management opponents, free vegan food and a chance to hobnob with a powerful state lawmaker.
The two-day/24-hour event is being put on by the “Washington Fish & Wildlife Management Reform Convention Steering Committee,” which includes representatives from Wild Fish Conservancy, The Conservation Angler, Center For Biological Diversity, Humane Society of the United States and Washington Wildlife First, among others.
Together they aim to “bring together fish and wildlife advocates from around the state to discuss a path toward transforming the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife into an agency that prioritizes conservation over consumption, emphasizes the intrinsic value of individual animals and healthy ecosystems, and represents the values of all the people of the state.”
It’s ultimately another step in a longer process that aims to uncouple WDFW and the Fish and Wildlife Commission from their strongest traditional supporters and the convention implies a much more well-organized effort that Washington hunters and anglers should, again, take note of.
Among the speakers listed for the meeting agenda, which was taken down today but screenshotted in part, is Fred Koontz, the former Fish and Wildlife Commission member who resigned last December but still fires off occasional broadsides in the form of Seattle Times opinion pieces, and the environmental-job-hopping Chris Bachman, who will speak on WDFW’s Game Management Plan process, while state Sen. Christine Rolfes (D), chair of Ways and Means and member of Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks committees, is scheduled to be on hand for a “View from the legislature Q&A.”
The legislature was one tack that WDFW reformists tried to take last session, though none took sail.
Speaking of Olympia, it’s somewhat surprising that Governor Inslee’s new senior Natural Resources Policy advisor Ruth Musgrave isn’t among the speakers, as reforming fish and wildlife agencies has been her calling for several years.
Day one of the convention is focused on “The Problem,” with an overview of “Why is WDFW in need of reform” and “A view from the inside” among other topics.
Day two is about “The Solution” and will feature brainstorming breakout sessions on “Diversifying the Department, the Commission and Advocacy Groups,” “Engaging the broader public in Fish and Wildlife,” “Changing the Department from within,” “Finding the right commissioners,” and more, before a wrapup centered around “Developing a platform for change.”
Only invitees were allowed to register for the October 19-20 confab at Camp Sealth – an overnight co-ed kids camp owned by Camp Fire Central Puget Sound and which charges around $700 for youths to attend for a week in summer, $225 for adults for a weekend campout – and registration closed October 1. Attendance is free, but there’s a suggested $50 donation to “defray event costs and support individuals and small groups that may need help with travel expenses.”
“We will be offering attendees vegan meals, lodging in a rustic camp environment, and the opportunity to spend time in a beautiful setting with other dedicated advocates – including individual activists and representatives from local, state, and national groups,” adds the coalition’s website, wawildlifecoalition.org.
That url is very similar to the one for Washington Wildlife First, which initially aimed at reforming not just WDFW but the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Ecology. The latter two agencies have apparently been dropped since the organization first popped up in summer 2021.
All of the above orgs are frequent commenters at meetings of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. They’re focused on WDFW and the commission’s black bear, cougar and wolf management, and overarching conservation policy. When they don’t get their way with the citizen panel or in the court system, they go to the governor’s office to have Inslee stick his hand into critter management.
The past two years they appear to have successfully gotten Inslee to appoint reform-minded people to the commission. As noted elsewhere, the terms of three commissioners – including two pro-fishing and -hunting members – are up at the end of this year.
Over the years Wild Fish Conservancy has sued WDFW over hatchery steelhead releases and Orca Prey Initiative hatchery Chinook releases, while WFC and The Conservation Angler are currently petitioning the National Marine Fisheries Service to list Olympic Peninsula steelhead – a crown jewel fish and fishery – under the Endangered Species Act.
Correction, 5:30 p.m., October 18, 2022: An earlier version of this said that Sen. Rolfes would be on hand for a fireside chat, but according to the agenda, she will be providing “A view from the Legislature Q&A.”