Retired Fisheries, Deer Biologists Named To WDFW Commission

A pair of retired biologists – one a tribal fisheries bio, the other a former WDFW ungulate researcher – have been named to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the term of its current chair has also been reupped.

The new members are Steven Parker and Woodrow “Woody” Myers, while the continuing member is Barbara Baker.


“I am excited to serve in this position,” said Parker of Yakima County and who for much of his 45-year career worked for the Yakama Nation. “I’ve devoted my professional career to fish and wildlife conservation and it is an honor to continue to do so in this new role and apply my experience to new issues.”

News of his appointment had the Hunters Heritage Council “overjoyed.”

“We wrote a letter in support of Mr. Parker and we think that he will make an outstanding commissioner,” said Mark Pidgeon, president of the group that represents a number of hunting, fishing and trapping organizations. “His scientific and educational background are second to none and will serve well on the commission, plus his knowledge of tribal matters will be a great asset on the commission. I can’t think of a better choice than Steven Parker. His depth of knowledge will go a long way in making him a Commissioner we will all be proud of.”

According to a WDFW press release, Parker will serve in the Eastern Washington position held through yesterday afternoon’s meeting of the commission’s Wildlife Committee by Dr. Kim Thorburn of Spokane.

Why do you want to serve on this board or commission?
I have been extremely fortunate in the education and training I have received over a career in fishery management spanning nearly 50 years. Most of it has been acquired in public service on the taxpayers’ dime. I feel an obligation to offer my experience in public policy development for whatever value it may bring to the citizens of Washington State and their fish and wildlife resources.

–From Steven Parker’s Fish and Wildlife Commission appointment application

A veritable neighbor of hers, Myers is the husband of retired WDFW Spokane-based spokeswoman Madonna Luers and was an ungulate researcher for much of his 40-year career with the state agency.

“The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is a pivotal player in activities that affect the quality of life of Washingtonians,” stated Myers in the press release. “It is truly a privilege to be appointed, and I am eager to get started on the critical work of the Commission. I look forward to furthering the use of science to set policy directing fish and wildlife management in our state.”

He will fill one of the three at-large positions.

“In my experience, Woody Myers has always been thoughtful, educated and open minded on issues pertaining to wildlife,” said Rich Landers, the retired longtime Spokane Spokesman-Review outdoor writer. “His background in wildlife science should benefit the commission and sportsmen and the decisions the panel will be making.”

Baker slides into one of the three Western Washington seats. Her term, as well as those of Myers and Parker, is slated to run through December 31, 2028, according to a posting by the Governor’s Office, which appoints members to the nine-member panel that oversees WDFW policies and hires and fires its director, who currently is Kelly Susewind.

Baker, an Olympia attorney who was the chief clerk of the state House of Representatives, and lives on a house boat, said she appreciated the chance to continue to serve on the commission and for the opportunity to continue working on fish and wildlife conservation.

“I also want to personally welcome the new commissioners – we have an important job, and I am thrilled to have a whole Commission to move us into the new year,” Baker said in the release.

Why do you want to serve on this board or commission?
“As Chair, I bring some measure of stability to our commission, the members of which do not agree on much of anything. This is primarily because climate change and population pressures on our ecosystems require carefully considered changes to the management of natural resources in Washington state. That causes (expected) conflict and concern among stakeholders and interest groups. My twenty years of experience with similar issues at the legislature has provided me with the tools necessary to navigate stormy political waters with confidence. This, in turn, grounds others. We are on a good path. I’d like to walk it for a while longer.”

–From Barbara Baker’s Fish and Wildlife Commission reappointment application

Inslee has now named a commission-altering seven new members since January 2021, including Lorna Smith and Fred Koontz, who resigned less than a year into his term after he and Smith faced withering pushback on their ideas about Blue Mountains elk herd management. Another appointee, Melanie Rowland, who was one of three members named in the immediate aftermath of a commission vote last winter that would have advanced 2022 spring bear hunt rulemaking, has also been a flashpoint on the commission but is the chief standard bearer of one of the governor’s primary concerns – global warming.

“Our Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission shoulders many complex and sometimes controversial issues, and as the climate changes, their responsibilities only increase,” Gov. Inslee said in a press release. “I am proud to welcome these three commissioners who will work hard to help our state protect and sustain its unique and cherished fish and wildlife.” 

Another former member, Don McIsaac, announced his resignation last November ahead of the end of his term at the end of 2022. While McIsaac could be described as pro-hunting, his commercial fishing chops might have got him the chop, given the governor’s Lower Columbia nontribal commercial gillnet ban proposal that died in the legislature earlier this session.

Thorburn might have been a thorn in the governor’s side too – “This letter concerns how fish and wildlife conservation and management conflict is roiled by your administration,” reads a January 2021 note she sent Inslee – but the retired public health official and birdwatcher provided unexpectedly strong and enduring support for hunting and fishing, and sportsmen owe a serious debt of gratitude to her.

I found her to be the most interesting commissioner I’ve ever observed, and Landers said it was “a shame if not a crime that Kim Thorburn was not reappointed.”

“In my opinion, she’s one of the best commissioners the state has ever had in terms of her commitment, open mindedness, knowledge of wildlife and willingness to learn more than what she already knows,” he said. “A staunch Audubon birdwatcher who supports and defends managed hunting and fishing – a real privilege to have her aboard.”

For the moment, anglers and hunters will be busily gathering information about what direction Parker and Myers might swing the commission, which after years of largely unanimous votes has come down to typical 5-4 splits given Inslee’s appointments, and whether sporting organizations were consulted by the Governor’s Office. They reportedly were not with the previous five new members, and that has sparked a lawsuit threat from Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation.

I do know that Parker received written support from one big player in Western Washington fisheries issues. And I always appreciated the time Woody took to explain deer, moose and other ungulate issues and management in Eastern Washington, where he wrapped up his long career, including a stint in the Okanogan, home to the state’s strongest mule deer herd.

Myers’ testimony in federal court on how a proposed ski area in the upper Methow Valley would impact the migratory herd and its habitat was recognized by a former WDFW director as “one of his most far-reaching contributions to wildlife conservation,” paraphrased Landers in a May 2017 piece on the state researcher’s retirement.

Why do you want to serve on this board or commission?
I am a retired wildlife biologist, having worked for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for nearly 40 years. It is, in my opinion, a crucial time for the state’s fish and wildlife resources as the impacts from a growing human population, climate change, and other factors continue to reduce habitat quality upon which these resources depend. The decisions that are made today will affect these resources far into the future. Thus, it is important that the Fish and Wildlife Commission be staffed with knowledgeable people who will make science-based decisions to help ensure these resources and their habitats continue for future generations. My experience in wildlife science would help this decision-making process.
As a lifelong hunter and fisher, I realize the value of connecting to fish and wildlife through recreation. I also realize that most citizens of the state do not hunt or fish but do appreciate and value wildlife in other ways. It is important that future management decisions be made that respect all of these values. My experience both as a recreationalist and a scientist who worked with various interest groups could help the Fish and Wildlife Commission make those respectful decisions.

–From Woody Myers’ Fish and Wildlife Commission appointment application

“Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Washington Chapter congratulates newly appointed Commissioners Parker and Myers,” commented Cameron Lankhaar and Dan Wilson, co-chairs of the BHA Washington Chapter. “We represent a passionate and growing group of members in Washington state, comprised of conservationists, hunters, and anglers, and this step toward Commission balance and sound management of state resources is heartening. We thank the Governor and his staff for the opportunity to provide feedback and for making educated decisions that reflect a shared respect for due process, best available science, and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.”

As sportsmen chew on the news, one hunting community representative suggested it all could have turned out much worse. Among the dozens of people who had thrown their hat into the ring were Chris Bachman of various environmental organizations, anti-hatchery Artifishal film producer Dylan Tomine and Tim Coleman of Kettle Range Conservation Group and formerly of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group.

The new appointments come as the Fish and Wildlife Commission works on an update to the statewide game management plan, with some newer members wanting it to take a wider, ecosystem-based approach, and sometime this spring there will be a status review of Washington wolves, along with release of the annual report on the state of the state’s packs.

It also adds to the number of retired biologists on the board. Member Tim Ragen of Anacortes worked on pinnipeds while John Lehmkuhl of Wenatchee was a Forest Service researcher and Douglas County rancher Molly Linville worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

That most commissioners tend to be retired has been on the mind of a state lawmaker who this year proposed paying members an annual salary as a way to open the field to those who might be interested in serving but otherwise can’t afford the $100-a-day pay.

The “incredible amount of time” commissioners put in for little pay essentially limits the panel to those who are “either wealthy or retired and financially set, or are employed by certain outside groups … Providing a salary for commissioners will allow us to get the high-quality individuals we need to promote equitable, non-biased solutions for the whole state,” stated Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Bodie Mountain) in support of House Bill 1699, which made it out of an initial committee but hasn’t moved since..