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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announces furloughs

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sergeant Tony Leonetti talks to a group of hunters on Saturday Nov. 9, 2019. The department will furlough employees as the state deals with a budget shortfall due to the pandemic. (Eli Francovich/Spokesman-Review)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Friday plans for agency-wide furloughs .

The agency, which preserves fish, wildlife and ecosystems and provides sustainable fishing and hunting, will continue to staff positions related to public safety, according to the release. Most other Fish and Wildlife services, including customer service, won’t be available Monday as well as July 10, 17 and 24. The agency expects additional furlough days this fall, according to the release.

Washington faces a multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall over the next several years due to closures and impacts from COVID-19, the release said, and Gov. Jay Inslee will require almost all state employees to take eight hours of unpaid leave per week beginning the week of June 28.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has already affected nearly every aspect of day-to-day life in Washington, and our hardworking staff have certainly been feeling those impacts, too,” WDFW Director Kelly Susewind said.

The news release, shared by the department on Facebook, received about 90 comments from angered Washingtonians.

Many felt Gov. Jay Inslee has ruined Washington’s economy. Some mentioned frustration over the department’s focus on wolf preservation while others were worried the department’s low funds will upset preservation efforts.

Some people who commented were upset they have not been able to fish or hunt despite paying high fees for tags and licenses.

“Maybe Inslee needs to cut two thirds of his paycheck and put it back into the state,” Cat Turnbull from Olympia commented.

Others asked if “top dog” administrators would continue working as workers lower on the food chain facing the brunt of furloughs.

“Sounds like some mismanaged funds right there,” Wyatt Johnson wrote in a comment. “Must of (sic) gave majority of it to the wolf programs. Didn’t you guys just get 30 million from the state fund?”

The WDFW replied to Johnson that the July furloughs apply to most state employees in Washington, “not just our agency,” to which Johnson replied, “Again, mismanaged funds throughout the state!”

One person suggested if the department hadn’t started the season by closing boat launches and outdoor recreation, it would have more money to maintain its employees now.

WDFW enforcement officers and other workers deemed essential will not see furloughs, but many people in the department will operate at 80% of its normal capacity during July, the release said.