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Lawmakers leave 3 unconfirmed on wildlife panel

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Senate's Natural Resources and Parks Committee took the time to hold confirmation hearings on three Fish and Wildlife Commission members, but they never bothered to vote yea or nay.

But the way the commission operates, members appointed a governor can continue serving until they quit or are asked to leave by another governor if the legislature doesn't act. 

 Chairwoman Miranda Wecker, appointed by a previous governor, and Bob Kehoe and Jay Holzmiller, appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee, will continue to serve on the commission at the same status as Larry Carpenter, Conrad Mahnken and Jay Kehne, who were approved by the House last year. 

Gov. Inslee has not said whether he plans to fill the remaining open position on the nine-member panel.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman blogged, "I figured, criminy, if Kehne can make it through the Senate, anybody can."


Wildlife Commission chair interviewed by lawmakers

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Miranda Wecker of Naselle, who continues in her position as chair of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, had another confirmation hearing in Olympia with the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

She answered questions highlighting some of her stands on commercial fishing and wolf recovery.

But despite the second appearance before the committee in a year, there's been no promise that Wecker will be officially confirmed.

So she continues to lead the commission at the pleasure of the current governor as well as former Gov. Gregoire, who appointed her to the panel in 2005.  

I guess the lawmakers are just bringing her in to let her know they know she's there.

That's not all bad.

Orcas, salmon, elk on commission agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — An update on the status of the Colockum elk herd is among a wide range of topics on the agenda when the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meets June 7-8 in Olympia.

The commission also will consider:

  • Cabezon sportfishing regulations.
  • Gian Pacific octopus recommendations.
  • Instream flows recommendations
  • Land transactions.
  • Resident killer whales and their relationship with salmon fisheries.
  • Wildlife rehabilitation regulations.
  • Online licensing changes.
  • Hoof disease in southwest Washington elk.

Info: Commission office in Olympia, (360) 902-2267, email commission@dfw.wa.gov.

Check…mate. Last-minute procedural move foils latest attempt to revamp Fish and Wildlife Commission…

For weeks now, Sen. Ken Jacobsen has been trying to revamp the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The backstory, from an earlier blog post I wrote:

Commercial fisherman say the board is tilted too far in favor of sport/recreational anglers. The latter say that the board is simply making the hard decisions necessary to preserve the region’s fish runs, and that rod-and-reel anglers are inherently more selective than folks who scoop up fish with nets.

Jacobsen wants to reduce the number of commissioners, shorten their terms, assign them by geographic region and — this is the most important one — remove their ability to hire and fire the director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. As he put it in a moment of candor before a House committee last month, Jacobsen’s bill would “neuter ‘em.”

Jacobsen’s proposal sailed through the state Senate, where Majority Leader Lisa Brown said that she felt there were legitimate questions over how the commission was doing. Rep. Brian Blake tried to tone it down a bit while still preserving the intent of Jacobsen’s bill. But Blake’s amended version collapsed at the last minute when Rep. John McCoy proposed taking away the commission’s authority over many fish and all hunting. (The department and, ultimately, the governor would have taken over that role directly.)

Then Jacobsen managed to quietly graft his plan onto another bill, House Bill 1778, that was moving swiftly toward passage.

That’s the bill that came up in the Senate today. On the Senate floor, Jacobsen was cueing up his arguments for final passage of the bill when Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield stood up and objected.

In the legislature, bills must contain basically what is described in the bill title. (This rule is what prevents lawmakers from trying to camouflage controversial legislation with motherhood-and-apple-pie titles, although there are still an awful lot of very vague bill titles out there.)

Zarelli protested, saying that an overhaul of the commission didn’t remain in a bill that was supposed to be about things like allowing anglers who pay extra to fish with two poles. Jacobsen’s amendment, he said, “goes far beyond dealing with enforcement and licensing issues.”

The bill was tabled. The attorneys huddled. And Senate President eventually agreed with Zarelli. The provisions to change the commission, Owen said, “go well beyond the original” subject of the bill.

Zarelli’s challenge was “not a surprise,” Jacobsen said in an email afterward. But it looks like the death of the proposal, at least for this year.

“I am not aware of any vehicle that I can use” to revive the proposal, he said.

Trying to broker a way out of a longstanding fish war…

From this morning’s paper:

OLYMPIA _ Trying to broker a truce in a long-running dispute, state lawmakers are considering stripping the state Fish and Wildlife Commission of its role overseeing commercial fishing.

The move – likely to be voted on in a House committee today – caps a tug-of-war with high emotions on both sides.

The nine-member citizen commission, appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire, oversees fishing and hunting policy.

Critics – including some key lawmakers and Indian tribes – say the current members are biased in favor of sport fishing.

But the commission’s defenders say the group is simply doing the best it can to preserve struggling fish populations. And fishing with a rod instead of a net, they say, is far more selective at a time when the state’s trying to preserve wild fish runs.

The commissioners “are acting on behalf of conservation,” said Ed Wickersham, a sport fisherman from Ridgefield. “They’re frightening interests that have lived by exploiting these resources.”

One of the most high-profile critics of the commission is Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle. He has allowed the Senate to confirm just one of the commissioners, Spokane’s George Orr.

Jacobsen is unhappy that agency director Jeff Koenings – perceived as a commercial-fishing ally – resigned under heavy pressure in December. He’s also offended that the commission snubbed commission vice chairman Fred Shiosaki two years ago, deciding against making the Spokane angler chairman. Shiosaki later resigned from the commission.

“He’s a wonderful gentleman, and they blighted his career at the end,” Jacobsen said.

This year, Jacobsen proposed a bill to shrink the commission, shorten the terms, and strip it of authority to choose the head of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The governor would do that instead.

“They’ve managed to enrage the tribes, the commercial fishermen, the hunting community. And that’s pretty hard to do,” he said. “They’ve proved it doesn’t work.” The Senate approved the bill and sent it to the House earlier this month.

Jacobsen’s clear about the goal.

“If this bill passes,” he told lawmakers this week, “we neutered ’em.”