The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) submitted several legislative proposals during the 2012 Legislation Session to help carry out the mandate to preserve, protect, perpetuate and manage fish and wildlife and to provide fishing and hunting opportunities.
The Legislature adopted WDFW’s proposal to better protect public safety and the state’s fish and wildlife and their habitat by correcting deficiencies in current fish and wildlife enforcement laws. Substitute Senate Bill 6135 strengthened statutory penalties for certain fish-and wildlife-related crimes that endanger people and natural resources. It also decriminalized activity that did not involve protected or endangered species, big game, or other high-stakes resources. WDFW Enforcement serves Washington’s citizens by achieving compliance with laws relating to fish and wildlife, providing responsive public service, promptly resolving conflicts between humans and wildlife, and by forming partnerships with the public and with other agencies to benefit fish and wildlife.
WDFW collaborated with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (Parks) and the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to implement the Discover Pass that passed during the 2011 Legislation Session. As with any transformative legislation affecting so many people, Washington State residents provided feedback requesting adjustments to the new policy.
In response to public’s reaction, the three agencies requested legislation amending the existing bill to allow the annual Discover Pass and WDFW Vehicle Access Pass to be transferable between two vehicles. The Legislature made this change to the Discover Pass and other important improvements through the passage of Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 2373. Washington State depends on the Discover Pass to keep our state recreation lands open for public use and enjoyment.
WDFW is required by the state’s hydraulic code (Chapter 77.55 RCW) to review applications and issue permits for proposed construction or other work in or near state waters. The department’s Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) program is the state’s primary tool for protecting fish life.
The Legislature passed Second Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6406 creating a simple application fee for Hydraulic Project Approvals and integrating Hydraulic Project Approvals into Forest Practices as described under the Forest and Fish Act. With the state’s budget crisis, it also reduces the burden of the HPA Program on the State General Fund, as well as, streamlines natural resources permitting through the integration of HPAs into FPAs in a manner that will not result in a reduction to natural resource protection.
As the state’s human population continues to grow, interactions between wildlife and humans are more frequent, often resulting in damage to property and livestock. This issue is even more pronounced with large carnivores such as cougars, wolves, and bears and their interactions with people. The concerns extend beyond property damage to concerns for personal safety. The legislature directed the Department of Fish and Wildlife to address these growing issues through significant amendments to Chapter 77.36 RCW.
WDFW proposed legislation to allow the department to compensate livestock owners for losses using grants or other authorized funding; to enhance public safety and keep large carnivores from becoming habituated to humans; and add grey wolf to the list of big game species, which increases the fines for illegal killing and sets the stage for future management options once they are recovered. Although Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 2365 did not pass this session, carnivore management continues to be an agency priority.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife operates as the state’s principal agency for species protection and conservation, under a mandate defined in Title 77 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). That legislative mandate directs the department to preserve, protect, perpetuate and manage fish and wildlife and to provide fishing and hunting opportunities. Department activities also are subject to provisions of Title 220 and Title 232 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC).