Sports

Time To Rally: Gop On Mark With State Bill

There’s considerable room for action and reaction in these political times for fish and wildlife.

Washington sportsmen cannot procrastinate another day.

They should rally for a Republican-backed proposal to depoliticize the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department by restoring more authority to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Call the Legislative Hotline (800) 562-6000 to support HB 1540, which is scheduled for a Senate natural resources committee hearing Friday at 8 a.m.

The bill would restore the commission’s power to appoint the Fish and Wildlife director. Since 1987, the director has been a political pawn of the governor.

Right way: There’s no rest when the Legislature is in session, especially this year, when the right hand doesn’t always know what the other right hand is doing.

The budget proposed by House Republicans in Olympia undoubtedly includes some applaudable cost cutting.

Unfortunately, it also includes a provision to eliminate the $1.8 million budget for the Washington Conservation Corps. This program pays minimum wage to urban youths who stay out of trouble and learn the work ethic by maintaining state parks and wildlife areas.

State Republicans say they’d prefer to provide such services by tapping the federal Americorp program, which has a vaguely similar program for youth conservation workers.

Trouble is, Republicans in Washington, D.C., have proposed eliminating that program, too.

Washington State Parks, already under-funded, are in big trouble without the WCC, which provides the bulk of the seasonal maintenance at the parks at a bargain price.

Win some: SHB 1617, which sought to place a moratorium on purchasing wildlife habitat and recreation lands in Washington, apparently has died in Olympia.

This keeps alive the possibility that Spokane County might get matching funds to purchase the Rocks of Sharon area near Tower Mountain. The area is a prime natural area and critical corridor for elk.

Bills to watch: Pending legislation of importance to wildlife enthusiasts includes:

SHB 1286, which would reduce the standards for mitigating damages caused by logging and road building in state forests.

SHB 1658, which would allow filled or altered wetlands to be exempt from regulations that protect wetlands.

HB 1010, which would gut natural resource protections by severely restricting enforcement capabilities of fish and wildlife agents as well as the departments of Ecology and Natural Resources. A hearing is scheduled this morning in the Senate government operations committee.

SSB 5076, a bill worthy of support for measures to encourage private owner cooperation in protecting wildlife corridors.

Sidetracked

Considering all beatings wildlife interests are suffering in the current political rampage against the environment, one can only shake a head at the narrow obsession of animal rights zealots.

And those who are blinded by their arguments.

The January-February issue of Washington Wildfire, Journal of the Washington Wilderness Association, focuses on just one bill in the Washington Legislature.

The journal did not focus on the Republican vendetta bills designed to neuter the state’s ability preserve wildlife habitat in state forests. Nor did it mention the bill that would force the DNR to log critical lynx habitat in the Loomis forest.

Instead, the journal featured a dead-on-arrival bill supported by the Progressive Animal Welfare Society to ban the use of bait and hounds for the hunting of cougars and bears.

Animal rights zealots have never had the common sense to join forces with hunters and other conservationists against population growth and development - the major threats to wildlife.

But that doesn’t explain how officials in the Washington Wilderness Coalition could be so naive.

You can’t hug your favorite tree and expect to save it while a gang of vandals is upwind torching the entire forest.

Swany rivers

Want a break from the political assault on wildlife?

Sage grouse are strutting in Grant and Douglas counties. Ducks are finding the best water and nesting conditions in a decade in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

And wet weather is priming wild lands for a spectacular bloom of wildflowers.

Tundra swans are flocking to the Inland Northwest on their spring migration. They’ve been resting on flooded wheat fields in the Columbia Basin this week, as well as at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge and the vast flooded areas of the Colville and Pend Oreille valleys.

Hundreds of swans were gathered this week near Lake Pend Oreille at the mouth of the Pack River and on the Clark Fork River between Cabinet Gorge and Noxon.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review



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