Goat transfer sparks new law on communication

OLYMPIA — A state lawmaker from Sultan has succeeded in making the state Department of Fish and Wildlife do a better job of spreading the word on any wildlife-relocation plan.

A new law, authored by Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan, requires the state agency to hold a public hearing in a community near to where it is considering the transfer, relocation or introduction of any big game animals.

And it mandates the agency provide that community’s elected leaders advance notice of the public meeting as well.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 2276 on March 22, concluding an effort begun several years ago by former state Sen. Kirk Pearson of Monroe.

“I just picked up the ball and carried it to the finish line,” Eslick said moments after the governor handed her the pen used to sign the legislation.

Eslick said a critical component is “making sure the [hearing] notification is proper and in plenty of time so the public can make the time to attend.”

She wanted language requiring community leaders be informed because they might not see a press release put out by the state agency and they can help spread the word.

Case in point, she said, is the current conversation about relocating mountain goats from the Olympic National Park to their native habitat in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a press release March 6 with dates of four upcoming public meetings, including March 21 in Darrington.

She said the Darrington mayor was unaware of the meeting until she told him.

This is Eslick’s first bill to be signed into law. It passed unanimously in the House and Senate and will take effect in June.

It requires Fish and Wildlife officials to provide at least 30-day notice of any public hearing on any potential relocation effort.

The announcement of the hearing must include information on the species and number of animals involved, where they will be released, and an estimate of the potential range the wildlife is likely to roam.

Per the law, written notices must be sent to “the mayor or county executive of any location that is likely to be impacted by the presence of the wildlife.”

Similar notices also must be sent to the members of a town, city or county legislative body.

At the public hearing, the law requires department officials explain the proposed action and management plans “in sufficient detail to provide an understanding of the reasons for the proposed movement and potential impacts of the action in or near the community.”

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