OLYMPIA—A $21 million reduction in state and other funding over the next two years will require the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to lay off 76 employees and curtail some public services.
The layoffs, along with elimination of dozens of vacant positions, will be effective at the close of the current fiscal year June 30.
WDFW executive managers have been planning for a significant budget reduction for months, and in the meantime have been pursuing a number of savings and efficiency efforts to reduce current spending.
As much as possible, reductions were structured to preserve core department missions of conserving fish and wildlife, providing sustainable fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities and maintaining field operations, said WDFW Deputy Director Joe Stohr.
Despite those efforts, there will be reductions in basic services, he said.
Hatchery fish production, wildlife species recovery activities, technical assistance for habitat protection, wildlife area maintenance, fish and wildlife population monitoring, customer service and outreach and education are among the activities that will be reduced under the 2009-11 operating budget approved by the state Legislature this year.
Under that budget, WDFW will receive $81.2 million in support from the State General Fund, a reduction of about $30 million from the current budget period. But other measures approved by the Legislature this year are expected to partially offset that reduction by generating more than $9 million in new revenues for the department.
“While these budget cuts are deep and painful, we recognize they could have been far worse without the support the department received from legislators,” said Phil Anderson, WDFW interim director.
One new measure, House Bill 1778, allows WDFW to collect a temporary two-year, 10 percent surcharge on sales of fishing and hunting licenses and permits, and is expected to generate about $6 million in revenue. The bill also allows the department to offer fishing with two poles on designated lakes, generating about $2 million over two years. Another new law, Senate Bill 5421, is expected to generate about $1.75 million over two years through a new stamp for recreational salmon and steelhead fishing in the Columbia River and some of its tributaries.
To mitigate the anticipated budget shortfall, the department has made ongoing efforts to increase efficiency, pursue outside partnerships and funding sources, and boost recreational license sales. Sales of recreational fishing licenses are up slightly so far this year, currently about $450,000 above 2008 sales for the same period, according to WDFW licensing managers.
More information about impending budget reductions at WDFW is available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/budget/.