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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.

Happy 20th Birthday Futurewise

“If you care about where your kids are going to live or if you care about where you’re going to retire, Futurewise is the group you need to invest in because their work is the key to our ability to make progress on all those issues.” Aaron Ostrom Director of Fuse

Here are a few topics we often talk about here on DTE: growth management, responsible land use, conservation, neighborhood walkability and efficient and earth-sensitive transportation.  If you consider tying them all together, what we end up talking about is a vision for a higher quality of life in Spokane, Washington state, the country and the world.  A vision for a more sustainble region.  Sounds great right? 
It does to us now, as it did to the founders of Futurewise 20 years ago.  That’s right, 20 years!  Pretty incredible when you think about how difficult and frustrating public policy work can be.  That’s 20 years of jumping hurdles, running uphill, swimming upstream, etc….. you get the picture.
In case you’re unaware, Futurewise is “a statewide public interest group working to promote healthy communities and cities while protecting farmland, forests and shorelines today and for future generations.”  Founded in 1990 (the same year the Growth Management Act was passed in Washington State), they’re the only statewide group in Washington working to ensure that local governments manage growth responsibly - essentially the state’s primary advocate for smart growth policies.

In the below video you’ll hear stories about how Futurewise started, what’s it done in the last 20 years, and why its work is critical for the future.  What we want you to do is consider how Futurewise has aligned with your vision of a sustainable Spokane.  Think about how it has helped protect that vision or introduce you to that vision, or  use this video and post to begin that thought process.  What  you’ll find is Futurewise is more important to you than you probably previously considered.  For the next 20 or 40 years, having organizations be watchdogs of corporations, developers and other power brokers is going to be essential for protecting our vision of a sustainable Spokane, and Futurewise has 20 years of experience doing so.  Get connected, get educated, get involved.