Much of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) 2011 legislative effort was focused on maintaining services and fish- and wildlife-related opportunity, in the face of an unprecedented budget shortfall. State General Fund support to WDFW declined by nearly $39 million (nearly 35 percent) throughout the 2009-11 biennium and was reduced an additional $6 million in the 2011-13 biennium. The budget shortfall is explained in “Facing the Future."
The Wildlife Account— comprised of recreational license fees—was facing the prospect of an $11 million deficit during the 2011-13 budget period. Fishers, hunters and other users of WDFW-managed resources would have seen serious reductions in services and fishing and hunting opportunities unless substitute funding was found to fill the major budget gaps. These activities are important in Washington state, generating $4.5 billion for the state’s economy and supporting more than 60,000 jobs.
To avert further reductions, WDFW worked closely with stakeholders to develop alternate funding proposals to continue basic services. The Legislature adopted the agency’s legislative proposal to increase recreational license fees to maintain fishing and hunting opportunity. Not all license fees increased under the new pricing structure. Some – including those for young people, seniors and people with disabilities – declined. Fees were structured to reflect the cost of managing specific fisheries and hunts, fees in neighboring states and other factors. This new pricing structure is expected to generate about $15 million in additional revenue in 2011-13 to maintain recreational hunting and fishing opportunities around the state.
Another agency legislative proposal focused on maintaining state wildlife lands where thousands of people recreate annually enjoying activities ranging from birdwatching to boating. WDFW, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (Parks) and the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) jointly requested legislation that led to the creation of the Discover Pass, a user fee for vehicle access to nearly 3 million acres of state-managed recreation lands. Fees collected through the sales of the Discover Pass are intended to provide adequate revenue to keep state recreation lands open to the public, despite recent steep reductions in general revenue support.
Invasive species management was also a priority during the 2011 legislative session. WDFW and the Department of Ecology (DOE) jointly requested legislation that rescinded the expiration date for fees that support existing aquatic invasive species and aquatic algae control programs. With the passage of this important legislation, WDFW is able to maintain the current program to conduct monitoring, public education, and vessel inspection activities with the goal of stopping invasive species from entering state waters and avoiding the massive expense to try to eradicate them.
Another victory was the passage of legislation aimed at improving recreational fishing in the Puget Sound. WDFW’s legislative proposal streamlined the Puget Sound Recreational Enhancement Program to maintain sustainable fishing opportunities in the Puget Sound, while aligning the program with current conservation goals for salmon and other species. Providing opportunities for tens of thousands of anglers, the Puget Sound salmon fishery also contributes $23 million in economic benefits each year.
We welcome ideas and feedback as we search for new ways to meet our basic mandate of managing fish and wildlife resources and providing sustainable opportunity.
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).