TAPPING THE STATE’S General Fund to the tune of $24.5 million to fund increased operating expenses has been requested by Department of Fish and Wildlife staffers and approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.
It was the first meeting for two new Commission members, Molly Linville of Douglas County and James R. Anderson of Buckley in Pierce County, who joined five other commission members to approve the department’s request to seek $24.5 million in increased operating funds, plus $26 million in capital funds, during the 2020 state legislative supplemental session.
The department decided not to ask for hikes to fishing and hunting license fees this time around after state lawmakers declined to pass a 15 percent hike last spring.
Out of this $24.5 million request, $11.4 million would cover “maintenance level requests” and 80 percent of that total covers unfunded increases passed on by the legislature. These increases include “cost of living increases that were not backed by revenue, attorney general costs, enforcement records management system and other unavoidable cost increases.”
The bulk is COLAs not backed by revenue, according to Nate Pamplin, Fish and Wildlife’s director of Budget and Government Affairs.
Another $6.6 million would keep current service levels and prevent cuts to the following: Fishing and Hatchery Production ($2 million); wildlife conflict response ($956K); conservation ($742K); hunting ($672K); Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead ($659K); shellfish and public health ($553K); land management ($578K) and customer service ($410K).
The department said new funding is needed to reduce humpback whale entanglement in industrial crab pots ($172K), salmon fisheries monitoring on Puget Sound ($2.4M) with a focus on the Nisqually and Skagit rivers; a total of $1.7M for hydraulic project approval to assist property owners in protecting fish; sea lion management on the Columbia River ($830K) for the reduction in the number of sea lions preying on Columbia River salmon and to fund a second year of work to implement the Governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force recommendations.
The request now heads to the state Office of Financial Management and would need to be part of proposed budgets offered by the governor’s office or a legislator, and approved by lawmakers before signed into law.
Fishing guide logbooks
The commission also adopted rules that will require fishing guides to report their fishing activities on a monthly basis beginning Jan. 1.
Fishing guides will provide Fish and Wildlife with information on the date and location of each guided fishing trip, the number of anglers onboard and the number and type of fish species caught per trip.
The department said this information will help clarify the role the guide industry plays not only in terms of helping recreational anglers to access fisheries, but also in providing economic benefits to local and state economies.
Area 9 still open
A reminder that hatchery chinook retention continues in Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) through Friday. State catch estimates placed Marine Area 9 at 84 percent of its 3,491 hatchery chinook quota as of Monday.
The state will evaluate catch estimates and decide if quota remains for any further hatchery chinook openings today or Friday.
Audubon field trip
The Dungeness River Audubon Center in Sequim will host a free walking field trip to see local birds starting at 8 a.m. Friday.
Attendees should bring binoculars.
The center is located inside Railroad Bridge Park, 2151 W. Hendrickson Road.
For more information call John Gatchet at 503-781-5043.
A Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants Class will be offered in Sequim by the Dungeness River Audubon Center on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Instructor Nancy Slick will lead a wild walkabout to see and learn about the multitude of useful plants that lushly populate our northwest landscape.
Attendees should wear comfortable shoes and bring something for note taking.
The class is $35.
Slick is an attorney, writer, potter and wild edible and medicinal plants teacher in the Sequim area. She has been a plants consultant for the National Geographic television network and has taught foraging in King, Pierce, Jefferson, Clallam and Kitsap counties, including for Peninsula College.
To sign up or for information, call 360-681-4076.
Anglers meet Tuesday
Port of Port Townsend Commissioner Steve Tucker will provide an update on the Port and answer questions at Tuesday’s meeting of the East Jefferson Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers.
The group will meet in the Port of Port Townsend Commissioners Office, 333 Benedict Street in Port Townsend.
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. with socializing and fish stories.
Refreshments will be served and the public is invited.
The public can also drop by the group’s booth at the Jefferson County Fair in Port Townsend Friday through Sunday.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]