The North Olympic Peninsula once again has representation on the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, a nine-person citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Port Townsend’s Lorna Smith, 69, was appointed alongside King County’s Fred Koontz by Gov. Jay Inslee to four-year terms that began Monday and run through Dec. 31, 2026.
Smith served as Snohomish County’s lead environmental supervisor from 1986-2007 and has previously received recognition from the Fish and Wildlife Department for her service on its Non-game and Lands Advisory committees. She also earned a national conservation award for her efforts to establish Protection Island as a National Wildlife Refuge.
More recently, she has served as executive director of Western Wildlife Outreach, a group which focuses on coexistence between humans and large meat-eating animals such as bears, cougars and wolves. She also ran for a Jefferson County Board of Commissioners position in 2020, eventually losing to fellow Democrat Heidi Eisenhour in November’s race.
Smith said she wanted to serve on the commission because she is passionate about fish and wildlife and brings an ecological mindset to the group.
“I am an ecologist; I have worked in the field of ecology and watershed restoration my whole career,” Smith said. “Even before WWO, I have had years of interactions with [Fish and Wildlife] department biologists and staffers. I am passionate about these organisms.
“We live above Discovery Bay, and we see so much biodiversity, and my main interest is maintaining biodiversity because we are at a critical point with climate change.”
Her time on the Non-game Committee also will help Smith bring another viewpoint to the commission.
“I’m not driven by a need to protect a specific animal,” Smith said. “Ninety to 95 percent of fish and wildlife species in the state are not harvested, they are non-game. And the number of hunters and fishers has really declined to where it’s about 4 percent of the population. The Commission is charged to manage all of those species, not just those that are hunted and fished. I want to bring a habitat and ecosystem focus to the commission because that will benefit the most wildlife.”
Smith said she is interested in researching the impacts of climate change on wildlife populations and watershed recovery.
“And moving the needle back toward more reliance on science in decision making,” Smith said.
And while changes to how the department is funded may not be feasible in the upcoming state legislative session due to the financial impacts of COVID-19, Smith said she would like to explore other funding options due to a trending pattern of declining hunting and fishing license sales [2020 will likely be an outlier in terms of increased license sales].
“I feel strongly that we need to get more people involved in fish and wildlife issues and looking at more revenue sources,” Smith said.
“A reliable, dependable source of funding has been hunters and fishers, and I would like to see that tent expanded. And it’s a difficult time to be coming in with that focus, especially in a 90-day legislative session that will be focused on the pandemic as it needs to be. So some of these ideas may not come up or come to fruition until we have recovered.”
Asked to comment on reductions in recreational fishing opportunities on the North Olympic Peninsula, Smith said conditions are not getting any better.
“It’s a very difficult picture right now for salmonid species right now,” she said. “Harvest levels have been reduced across the board, and it’s not getting better. I don’t have those answers, but I will be at the table to hopefully tackle them as they come up.
“We can’t close down hatcheries overnight thinking that will be the solution to bringing back wild fish stocks, but we also need to avoid infringing upon or impacting wild fish that are trying to spawn. We have to be very careful about how hatcheries are managed so that wild fish have a chance to recover.”
Given her past efforts to preserve Protection Island and its large seabird population, her outdoor activities take a particularly avian lean.
“I love to go out and observe wildlife,” Smith said. “I’m a birder and participated in the Audubon’s Christmas bird count. We have a boat, a canoe; we hike and snowshoe.”
She and her family have harvested crab but said her Discovery Bay neighbors help keep her stocked with fish and game.
“I’m going to make an honest confession. Out here all of our neighbors fish and crab, and they fill up our freezer. And when these presents arrive on our door step, including venison, we are thankful,” Smith said.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected] news.com.