Grave Budget Warning From Governor

Yesterday’s economic warning from Gov. Christine Gregoire could mean that in the short term WDFW and other state agencies have to cut another 4 to 7 percent from their budgets, and 10 percent during the next two-year biennium to deal with large revenue shortfalls.

A September revenue forecast will determine how much must be cut this fall.

The 10-percent cut, due to a $3 billion shortfall, would affect programs financed by General Fund money.

“Three areas that consume most of our General Fund dollars are enforcement, hatchery production and fishing-related activities like monitoring fisheries, and habitat protection — HPAP, fish passage, that sort of thing,” says Craig Bartlett, an agency spokesman in Olympia.

Hunting activities, however, are shielded from General Fund cuts.

“Hunting is largely supported by the Wildlife Fund,” Bartlett says.

WDFW has already seen 32 percent cut from its General Fund budget between the 2007-09 biennium ($110.3 million) and the recently approved 2009-11 biennium ($75.6 million), he says.

And that is leading to strange bedfellows for sport fishermen. Two WDFW hatcheries are being kept afloat through “generous” underwriting by the Colville Tribe and the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association along with Suquamish Tribe, a Bellingham Herald article by Doug Huddle notes.

One hatchery raises and releases 10 million juvenile chum salmon in Hood Canal, the other provides about 409,000 trout and kokanee salmon fry to support recreational fishing in about 72 lakes in Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.

WDFW employees, like almost all state workers, are also being forced to take 10 days off without pay through next July.

Speaking with biologists and other WDFW staffers across the state, you can sense their stress from having to do more with less, frustration with leaving jobs undone, and worries about how difficult it may be to hold future fisheries that require intense monitoring.

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