Early Reaction To WDFW-Parks Merger

The Fish & Wildlife Commission would remain, but only in an advisory role, and the governor would appoint the head of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

That according to press reports after Gov. Gregoire yesterday announced her proposal to fold the Department of Fish & Wildlife, State Parks and Recreation Commission, Recreation and Conservation Office and Department off Natural Resources’ law enforcement wing into a new agency.

The Legislature must first sign off on the idea during the upcoming session.

We got a few immediate quotes out of WDFW deputy director Joe Stohr and the Northwest Marine Trade Association’s Tony Floor about the plan — which according to the governor’s office is part of a wider agency consolidation that would save $30 million over the next two years –but this morning there are comments from others who would be affected by the proposed merger.

Rich Landers of the Spokane Spokesman-Review blogged about Commissioner George Orr’s response:

“It’s hard on my ego to say I don’t’ think we need smart guys like me to write policy. But the governor’s trying to make ends meet in tough times. For now, it probably makes sense.”

“People say they want to keep political decisions out of fish and wildlife management. But the reality is that politics enter into just about every decision we make.”

Jordan Schrader of The News Tribune of Tacoma reports that state parks commission chairman Fred Olson, speaking for himself, reacted “favorably of the recreation-agencies merger, saying it deserved a serious look.”

“I think there’s a lot to be said for the current structure, but you know what? It’s not the only way to do business. Having more direct control over these agencies by a governor also makes a lot of sense.”

The issue is also being debated at Piscatorial Pursuits and Hunting Washington.

And this afternoon, Dave Workman, a longtime Washington hunting and fishing writer and state game agency watcher, posted a fiery column on the subject:

Under Gregoire’s proposal, the Fish & Wildlife Commission will be reduced to the role of an “advisory panel.” So, who would set the hunting and fishing seasons? Gregoire? A member of her staff? The wildlife director? Maybe she’ll just turn that job over to the Defenders of Wildlife, which places more emphasis on wolf welfare than on the consumptive hunting opportunities of people who pay the freight for wildlife management: the hunters, themselves.

Right now, with the state in a budget pit big enough to swallow Mount Rainier, hunters may not be too keen on any notion of merging the one agency that is supposed to address their needs and activities, with several other agencies that may be inclined to treat them like unwanted house guests.

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