Blunt words from Washington hunting defenders in the wake of the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s kiboshing of the state’s longstanding limited-entry spring bear season by a 5-4 vote last Saturday.
“This is just the beginning.”
“Will hunters put boots on the ground for their heritage, or will they piss and moan and do nothing to help themselves?”
The first are the words of Brian Lynn, who appeared on Thursday night’s Fish Hunt Northwest show. He put the commission’s new tack away from its traditional mooring squarely on Governor Jay Inslee’s shoulders.
“They’re just advancing his agenda, which is a green agenda,” says the Sportsmen’s Alliance spokesman and Spokane-area resident. “You know, we gotta feed the orcas in South Puget Sound and we can’t, you know, hunt predators. That’s basically what it boils down to. The animal rights movement has an ally in Jay Inslee; they know that. He stepped in and changed wolf (management) that the commission agreed on and working groups have agreed on. He’s changed those, he’s stepped into mountain lion stuff. The people he has put into commissioner seats are advancing his agenda.”
It’s the governor’s prerogative, of course, who he puts on the citizen panel that oversees WDFW policy, but the concern in some corners is that given the block of five that voted against 2022’s edition of the sustainable, scientifically managed black bear hunt supported by the state’s professional wildlife managers and biologists, the membership could become even more skewed because two pro-hunting and -fishing members’ terms end December 31, 2022.
Indeed, with all due respect to slippery-slope greaser John Lehmkuhl, “Spring bear is only the beginning,” as Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ Dan Wilson posted today.
Commission members are already talking about reinterpreting the commission’s and WDFW’s mandates – “maximize the public recreational game fishing and hunting opportunities”; “preserve, protect, perpetuate, and manage the wildlife and food fish, game fish, and shellfish in state waters and offshore waters” – as well as using a “precautionary principle” that goes far beyond the accepted conservation-based management.
But while Inslee is pretty untouchable by voters until at least fall 2024, many other state lawmakers face re-election battles later this year.
“The entire house is up this year and half the Senate,” notes Brian Blake. “Every seat matters.”
He should know. He’s a former state legislator from Aberdeen who represented Washington’s South Coast before being voted out of office during 2020’s Republican sweep of the region.
Blake foresees another wave election building this fall and advises sportsmen harness it.
“Hunters should be door-belling for candidates and marching in parades with candidates. Work to elect legislators who can stop the anti-hunting agenda,” he says.
A Democrat and multi-year Hunters Heritage Council legislator of the year (though definitely not a favorite of several sportfishing groups), Blake was a backstop in Olympia on hunting as well as gun laws (he’s an NRA life endowment member).
Without him, earlier this year some lawmakers tried to make wholesale changes to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, going so far as to propose stripping it of its power and stuffing WDFW under the elected state lands chief. Fortunately, those bills went nowhere, outside of serve as convenient political cover for the latest commission appointments in January.
But legislators also sit on committees that fish and wildlife bills go through, and on the Senate side, they can confirm or not confirm commissioners. My point: There are lots of opportunities to influence things in Olympia with your wise, informed votes.
“Majorities matter, I am no longer there to protect our heritage,” Blake states. “Hunters/conservationists need to work for the future of our heritage or not. It is their call.”
He was echoed Thursday night by Lynn on Fish Hunt Northwest.
“Everything is politics these days. You’re off the bench, man, you’re in the game. You’re either in the game or you’re not – you’re in the stands. Are you part of the conservation movement, which believes in hunting and fishing and the wildlife management model that we use, or are you part of preservation, where it’s hands off, humans aren’t involved, hunters aren’t involved. It’s conservation versus preservation, which is what this boils down to,” Lynn says.
Many hunters and anglers, including yours truly, are loath to get involved in politics, but I’ll tell you something: Watching this commission and state lawmakers over the past year and a half or so, I’ve surprised myself by seriously considering for the first time ever running against someone, in this case a state senator, so fed up have I become.
Where in the hell did that come from, Walgamott?
I’ll tell you where, where things are sliding away from their traditional AND strongest moorings, especially when it comes to hunting, fishing, habitat and conservation.
“Hunters have one chance. Will they get out on the ground and work for pro-hunting/conservation candidates from August through the election?” Blake asks. “Elections and hunting season happen simultaneously and hunters need to participate in both if we are to retain our heritage.”
Marching orders from both sides for the good of our opportunities and management thereof.