THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
The Fish and Wildlife Commission, on Friday, approved $17 million in budget requests for needed enhancements to manage fish and wildlife in Washington state. Commissioners also provided a list of potential service cuts, while pointing out the counterproductive nature of such cuts should statewide elected officials adopt them.
A unanimously adopted Commission position statement outlined how the $23.5 million in possible cuts, if realized, would have significant impact on local economies, and asserted that investments in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW’s) work serves to generate revenue.
A 2016 analysis by the Washington Department of Revenue estimated that fishing, hunting, and watchable wildlife activities would deposit $340 million into the State General Fund in the 2017-19 biennium – a significant return-on-investment from the $94 million of State General Fund appropriated by the legislature (and then leveraged with other fund sources).
The Commission’s statement also outlined how residents, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, are using and counting on access to fish, wildlife and other outdoor resources more than ever.
To meet the statewide government reduction exercise, the Commission adopted proposals that would result in $23.5 million in operational cuts in the 2021-23 biennium budget. The general fund service cuts may be considered as the state anticipates a $9 billion shortfall in state general fund over the next several years. If executed, the cuts to WDFW would impact salmon, steelhead, trout and warm-water fishing opportunities; enforcement and public safety; lands stewardship; conservation; and the Department’s ability to partner with others. Department staff will submit these options – representing a 15% reduction in its state general fund appropriations – to the Governor’s Office in mid-September.
The Commission’s position statement urges, “…that the Governor and Legislature consider the long-term impacts to fish and wildlife conservation while this near-term economic crisis is addressed.”
The budget proposal also includes $8.1 million requests to address certain declining fund sources with State General Fund.
The $17 million in new enhancements would support WDFW’s ability to monitor and enforce Aquatic Invasive Species, improve steelhead spawning surveys, enhance salmon habitat, and increase actions to recover Southern Resident Killer Whales, among other important work.