Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission is seeking a $24.5 million operating budget plus an additional $26 million in capital funds from the state legislature in the 2020 supplemental session to ensure that it can maintain current operations and make strategic enhancements next year.
In the request, the commission also said the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wants to require monthly fishing guide logbook reporting, starting January 1, 2020, to provide information on each guided fishing trip, the number of anglers onboard, and the number and type of fish species caught per trip.Under the commission’s proposal, $11.4 million in the budget request would address an ongoing structural deficit driven by various cost increases, such as rising worker wages and centralized state services.
WDFW also seeks $6.6 million to prevent cuts to several department services, including staff to provide expertise in habitat conservation. The funding would also pay for fish production at eight salmon and trout hatcheries; hunting management; customer service; shellfish inspections; non-lethal conflict response between people and wildlife; access to salmon and steelhead fishing; and maintenance of a million acres of land managed by the department.
All these services were at risk in the previous year’s budget cycle and were extended for at least one more year, but commission chair Larry Carpenter said he wants funding extended “on an ongoing basis,” starting in 2020. “We had widespread stakeholder support last year, and we believe we will again this year,” Carpenter said. “Ultimately, it’s about more than just these services that are at risk – it’s really about having a functional department that’s able to deliver results.”
In addition, the commission said it wants $6.5 million earmarked for other immediate WDFW needs, such as better monitoring of salmon habitat and fishing opportunities; the removal of sea lions feeding on Columbia River salmon; the continuation of the Fish Washington mobile app; and the minimization of humpback whale entanglement with commercial crab pots.
The commission added that it considered a second legislative proposal to modify WDFW’s enforcement civil authority during its August 23, 2019, meeting.