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Updates from Olympia | Wild Northwest Blog

Chase Gunnell / Apr 12, 2019 / Legislation, State Trust Lands, WDFW

The place our legislative priorities and different conservation bills stand as of mid-April.

By Chase Gunnell, Communications Director

The 2019 session of the Washington State Legislature is scheduled to end on Sunday, April 28. Although extensions and particular periods with finances negotiations dragging on into summer time have been widespread in recent times, it’s still an excellent time to update you on where our legislative priorities stand.

Conservation Northwest is represented in Olympia by our Coverage Director, Paula Swedeen, Ph.D. Mitch Friedman, our Government Director, additionally takes common journeys to the state capitol during session. And leaders from our conservation packages and I typically make the journey on behalf of specific points, similar to wolves or forest restoration. We additionally typically contract with lobbyists during session who work every day to advance insurance policies that help native communities while defending, connecting and restoring wildlands and wildlife. Study extra about our group on this web page!

Our two prime priorities in Olympia this session have been securing full-funding for fish and wildlife, and funding the Protected Passage 97 undertaking, which can install wildlife crossings in the Okanogan Valley.

Here’s the place things stand as of mid-April:

WDFW should have proper funding to help the stewardship of threatened species like Canada lynx, as well as extra widespread animals like elk, deer and bears. Photograph: Patrick Reeves

Our Priorities

Full funding for the Washington Division of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)

Current state Senate and House Working Price range proposals would fill the severe funding cuts this company has confronted because the Nice Recession. That’s a begin, however the further funding proposed is way lower than what’s wanted.

The state House finances allocates a $15 million finances improve from the Common Fund over the approaching biennium (simply enough to backfill these cuts I discussed), however depends on the passage of searching and fishing license charge increases for extra funding. Those payment payments (HB 1708 and SB 5692) presently face long odds, despite being the first such increases since 2011.

On the Senate aspect, their finances proposal would applicable a roughly $30 million improve from the Basic Fund, however with no further revenue from license charge will increase or different sources. This degree of funding can be devastating for our fish, wildlife and outside alternatives.

Together with the Department and other Finances and Policy Advisory Group leaders representing conservation, recreation, searching and fishing organizations, we strongly help fully-funding WDFW with $60 million in further funding, together with modest charge increases (capped at $7 on an annual combination fishing license and $15 on an annual mixture searching license, producing roughly $15 million over two years) and $45 million in Common Fund appropriations.

You possibly can contact your lawmakers on fish and wildlife funding using our easy type!

Protected Passage 97 in Okanogan County

A graphic rendition of how one wildlife crossing beneath Highway 97 in the Okanogan Valley would look.

In north-central Washington, there’s a brief stretch of Freeway 97 where more than 350 deer are hit and killed by automobiles annually. However there’s a chance to end this mindless loss of life.

For years, we’ve worked with local residents and group leaders, the Colville Confederated Tribes, and the Okanogan Chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation to boost awareness concerning the want for wildlife crossings in this stretch of freeway the place it bisects a deer migration route. Via our collaborative Okanogan Wildlife Crossing Marketing campaign and the help of greater than 570 donors, we even raised $200,000 to pay for the primary crossing the place the highway passes Carter Mountain Wildlife Space.

Now we’re asking the state to step up and fund implementation and additional crossings, together with $three million for the Protected Passage 97 venture in the 2019 Transportation Finances. You’ll be able to contact lawmakers and finances leaders for wildlife crossings using this manner!

Sadly, budgets are tight in Olympia this session, with many necessary points in need of funding. We’re hopeful that the Protected Passage 97 challenge will receive a minimum of $1.5 million this yr. That minimum quantity would permit the Washington State Division of Transportation to install the first undercrossing and fencing to assist maintain deer and motorists protected. This may maintain the challenge shifting and reveal the effectiveness of these buildings, which have worked very properly on I-90 and different areas.

A mule deer buck crosses safely beneath I-90 close to Snoqualmie Cross. Photograph: WSDOT

Study extra about this necessary effort on this KUOW radio piece, or at safepassage97.org!

Home Bill 2097: funding range riders and other non-lethal wolf battle avoidance instruments

Whereas we had initial considerations with a part of this invoice that would have set a precedent for regional wolf delisting before statewide restoration objectives are met, by means of work with the prime sponsor, Rep. Joel Kretz, that language has been eliminated by way of modification.

With this alteration, we strongly help this laws, which would offer funding for vary riders and different efforts to maintain each wolves and home livestock protected. HB 2097 passed the Home 98-Zero and the Senate 43-5!

Home Invoice 1516: coaching hounds to help scale back conflicts with cougars

This bill, which we helped develop by way of a collaborative course of with WDFW enforcement officers and wildlife specialists, the Humane Society of america, and others, would permit a small number of specially-authorized hound handlers to train their canine by way of the non-lethal pursuit of cougars.

We help HB 1516 as sound policy that may improve tolerance for wildlife by helping to shortly resolve conflicts with these huge cats that may influence local communities and different outside customers—undermining wholesome cougar populations in the long-run. HB 1516 is presently stalled in the Senate Guidelines Committee after passing the House 96-2.

Other Necessary Points

Environmental Priorities Coalition

Orca whale breaching. Photograph: NOAA

We’re part of the Environmental Priorities Coalition, a statewide network of greater than 20 organizations working to safeguard our surroundings and the well being of our communities in Washington’s legislature. Necessary EPC payments this yr embrace:

Read more concerning the passage of payments supporting orca restoration in this article!

Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program

We’re additionally a member group of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, which supports funding for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, our state’s largest grant program for outside access, public lands conservation, and wildlife habitat and restoration funding. The WWRC had requested $130 million in funding, but given the state of affairs in Olympia, only $80 million in funding has been proposed by the House and $90 million by the Senate. You’ll be able to contact lawmakers and urge them to help this very important fund here!

Senate Bill 5322: suction dredge mining regulation

Motorized suction dredge mining shouldn’t be regulated in Washington, permitting miners to literally suck-up the spawning beds of Endangered wild fish. Photograph: Wild Steelhead Coalition

This is a matter that our pals at Trout Unlimited and different conservationists, anglers like myself, and wild fish advocates have been engaged on for years.

Washington is the one Western state with threatened runs of salmon and steelhead that doesn’t regulate leisure motorized suction-dredge mining. As compared, California, Oregon and even Idaho have laws regulating this probably harmful exercise. Our state’s lack of laws means we’re not in compliance with the federal Clear Water Act and Endangered Species Act.

We help this bill to manage motorized mineral prospecting, together with bans in areas of designated Important Habitat for ESA-listed fish, while still permitting people to conduct responsible interest mining and gold panning. SB 5322 has handed within the Senate, and is awaiting a flooring vote within the Home. You’ll be able to help it by way of TU’s action middle right here. If this bill doesn’t move, Washington might be pressured to cope with this problem in the courts.

House Invoice 1028: increasing off-road automobiles allowed on county roads

We oppose this legislation, which would broaden the kinds of off-road automobiles (also referred to as All Terrain Automobiles or ATVs) allowed on county roads across Washington. HB 1028 has passed the Home.

We consider there is a place for responsible off-road car use and other motorized recreation on designated roads and trails in the great outdoor. Many ATV customers experience responsibly, respecting different customers and sensitive habitats, and self-policing members of their group that experience off designated roads and routes.

However earlier than roads are opened to ORV use, there have to be thorough and clear vetting, including a dialogue on right-sizing a top quality motorized footprint, restoring areas with unauthorized trails, and accountability for unlawful off-road driving. Study more about our work and perspectives on ORVs/ATVs.

DNR funding, wildfires and Belief Land Transfers

Funding for outside recreation entry and forest restoration to scale back wildfire risks on Division of Pure Assets (DNR) lands are another necessary price range need! Our buddies at the Washington Trails Association have an motion alert on DNR funding, and this new op-ed from Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz (a former Conservation Northwest boardmember) outlines one potential path ahead.

We also just lately signed on to a joint letter with 25 other organization supporting Belief Land Transfers to preserve a number of native DNR areas necessary for our state’s natural and cultural heritage. This can be a course of just like the one which we successfully championed last session to permanently protected Blanchard Mountain and Oyster Dome.

Thanks for studying and taking action! You’ll be able to study extra about our work in Olympia and beyond ON THIS WEBPAGE.

The view from Blanchard Mountain. DNR lands like this space between Mount Vernon and Bellingham provide necessary wildlife habitat, outside recreation alternatives, and revenues for local faculties and communities. Photograph: Erin Moore