I’ll stipulate at the outset that this is juvenile, but it’s funny nonetheless.
Yesterday, Bill Robinson, with the state chapter of the Nature Conservancy, was testifying about legislative efforts to revamp the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to defuse a perceived impasse among commercial and sport-fishing groups on the board.
More on that in a bit. First, here’s the moment:
Tech note: Unlike YouTube, TVW does not have a “replay” option. Once you view this, clicking play again will take you to the rest of the testimony. Workaround: To view this short segment again, hit the refresh button on your browser.
Here’s what’s going on.
First, Sen. Ken Jacobsen remains deeply unhappy with most of the current commission for last year publicly snubbing longtime commissioner Fred Shiosaki, a Spokane angler who was in line to become chairman. The commissioners, who are appointed by the governor, argued that it was their call, and that they wanted someone less deferential to the agency’s director and staff. (Shiosaki resigned soon afterward, and in December, F&W director Jeff Koenings also left.) Jacobsen’s refused to give Senate confirmation to the commissioners, but other than being a slight public poke in the eye, it doesn’t matter much — they can continue to serve without being confirmed.
Fish and game have always been political lightning rods in Washington, and that’s exactly what spawned the citizens initiative that years ago formed the commission. It would de-politicize wildlife management, the argument went.
It hasn’t worked out that way, according to most of the folks who testified in yesterday’s Senate hearing. Tribal fishing groups, hunters and sport fishing interests are all backing a bill by Jacobsen to essentially strip away the current commission and make the head of Fish and Wildlife answer directly to the governor instead.
Jacobsen says the commission is “a board gone overboard.” He says there’s major tension between commercial and sports fishing interests, and that the commissions not doing a good job of balancing the two. “We need a new cast of characters,” he said.
“The general sense is that it’s broken and it needs to be fixed,” said Ed Owens, a hunting and fishing lobbyist. He said hunters who try to testify at commission meetings “are being berated,” among other problems.
Carl Burke, who lobbies for boat builders, fishing-gear dealers and other recreational fishing interests, said the change would be a mistake. The commissioners invest hundreds of hours to get up to speed on complex wildlife issues, he said, and demoting them to mere advisors would make it highly unlikely that the unpaid commissioners will invest that time.
“Reducing their numbers, tenure or authority would render the commission pointless,” he said.