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Posts tagged: Mazama pocket gophers

WA Lege Day 65: GMA, surrogacy, cougars and gophers

OLYMPIA — A heavy hearing day today for legislative committees, with animal issues in the morning for the House Agriculture Committee and domestic partnerships and growth management bills before the Senate Government Operations Committee after lunch.

Two bills in Government Ops deal with a topic that often draws a vocal and passionate crowd, domestic partnerships. One would allow any domestic partnership in another state is specifically recognized as a domestic partnership in Washington. The other would allow for surrogacy contracts between a couple and a surrogate mother, and cover couples in domestic partnerships.

As if those weren't controversial enough topics, the committee also has a hearing on a plan to let several Eastern Washington counties withdraw from the Growth Management Act if they want.

House Ag drew all three animal bills that sailed through the Senate before cut off earlier this month. Tougher restrictions on shark “finning”, allowing hunters in northeast Washington to hunt cougars with dogs and a study to get a better count of the Mazama pocket gophers all drew testimony at the 10 a.m. hearing.

Animal rights groups argued there's no good reason to extend hound-hunting of cougars in northern counties, while Fish and Wildlife officials said it's an important tool, which with other things, helps cut down on the complaints of cougars interracting with people. Cattle and farm groups were generally in favor, while supporters of the 1996 initiative that outlawed using dogs to hunt cougars, bears and bobcats  and passed with about 63 percent voter support managed to work in a few “will of the people” references.

The bill to ban the practice of catching sharks, cutting off their fins and throwing the rest of the fish back into the water to die brought one bit of interesting testimony: Shark fins, despite their popularity in certain foreign markets, have no taste but can be high in mercury — it's one of the places the toxic chemical tends to build up.

Mazama pocket gophers were pretty roundly derided as obnoxious critters that seem to be doing just fine and don't need any protections as a threatened or endangered species. References to the movie “Caddyshack” were mercifully few.

Legislative cutoff: Some that are still living, and some that aren’t

OLYMPIA – Some animals fared well this week as the Legislature rushed to pass bills before a critical deadline. Folks hoping to sip local liquor at the farmers market, buy pot at a state liquor store or require proof of citizenship before the state gives out a driver’s license, didn’t do as well.

As is the case in most legislative sessions, many bills are all but dead after failing to pass at least one chamber before Monday’s cut off. There are a few parliamentary maneuvers that can shock a bill back to life, but they are far less frequent than a patient recovering when someone grabs defibrillator paddles and yells “Clear” in a TV doctor drama.

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 57: Sometimes, it’s a zoo

OLYMPIA — With time running out on the deadline to get bills out of their first chamber Monday, the state Senate spent some time taking care of animal concerns.

They passed a bill to study the Mazama pocket gopher. They passed another to place more sanctions on  shark “finning”. And they said dogs should be able to be used to hunt cougars for the next five years.

As they churned through a stack of bills before the 5 p.m. cutoff, senators seemed to find the most mirth in the Mazama pocket gopher bill, SB 5264, which calls for a study to determine whether they are in danger of being endangered. The state Fish and Wildlife Department would do the study, and come up with a recovery plan if they were.

“Is this a gopher found in pockets, is it one that would fit in pockets or does it have pockets?” Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood asked.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester,  said he didn't know for sure.

“I represent Mazama,” Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, said. “Are they moving in or out?”

“I can't answer that question, either,” Swecker conceded.

What's the difference between a regular gopher and the Mazama pocket gopher, Sen. James Hargrove, D-Hoquiam asked Sen. Kevin Ranker, the chairman of the committee that held hearings on the bill.

It was explained in committee by someone from Fish and Wildlife, Ranker said, but he hesitated to say because there may be school children in the galleries.

The answer, apparently, is that males have rather large genitalia…which they don't keep in their pockets. The bill passed 44-3.

SB 5688, which would make it illegal to catch a shark, cut off its fin and throw the rest of the fish back in the ocean, passed 47-0. It's unclear whether Ranker's appeal to vote yes for three sharks in the movie “Finding Nemo” — Bruce, Anchor and Chum — swayed the vote.

SB 5366, which extends the time for hunting cougars with dogs for another five years, passed on a 37-11 vote. Sen. Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls, said the cougar population exploded in the northern counties bordering Canada and this was the best way to keep them under control. “There isn't any other way to control cougars. We'd like to keep a few around.”Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, voted for the bill but couldn't resist a WSU-UW basketball dig: “Last two games, it's been the Cougars hunting the Dawgs.”

We'll have more on bills that made the cut off, and those that didn't on Tuesday.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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