WDFW Merger Bill Moves Forward, With Twists

It’s out with the Washington Department of Conservation and Recreation, in with the Washington Department of Fish, Wildlife and (take a breather here) Recreation — and the Fish & Wildlife Commission would retain its policy- and rule-making authority under Senate Substitute Bill 5669.

It was passed out of the Natural Resources & Marine Waters Committee by a 4-2 vote on President’s Day and forwarded to the Ways & Means Committee.

Instead of a director, the super-agency — a conglomeration of WDFW, State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office — would also have a “secretary” as its head.

According to Allen Thomas of The Columbian, “The substitute bill gives the governor authority to appoint a Department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation secretary from a list of five candidates submitted jointly by the wildlife and parks commissions.”

The Senate would have final say on confirming the governor’s choice, according to the substitute bill.

During a public hearing Feb. 10, Natural Resources chair Kevin Ranker promised that the bill that would emerge out of his committee would be different from the one that went in.

He was joined in voting for the second take by vice chair Debbie Regala, Karen Fraser and Dan Swecker, three Democrats and a Republican, respectively.

Voting against it were Senators Bob Morton and James Hargrove, a Republican and Democrat.

Senator Val Stevens a Republican, said send it without recommendation.

Fraser and Regala also sit on the 22-member Ways and Means panel.

Late last week, the Fish & Wildlife Commission fired off a statement against the original bill’s gutting of its authority over rules, policies and WDFW oversight. Before that, sport fishermen voiced their opposition during the public hearing.

In the House, companion bill 1850 sits in the State Government & Tribal Affairs Committee.

Both bills came at the request of Governor Gregoire who last December proposed merging numerous natural resource agencies.

In other legislative news, HB 1340, which would ramp up penalties for spree killing of wildlife, sailed out of the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources on a 13-0 vote and is before the rules committee. And SB 5661, which would require commercial fishermen to report lost gillnets, was passed out of Natural Resources to the rules committee as well.

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