WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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June 13, 1998
Contact: Sandi Snell, (360) 902-2229 or Jeff Weathersby, (360) 902-2256

Bern Shanks resigns as Fish and Wildlife director

PORT ANGELES -- Bern Shanks, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, today submitted his resignation to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The resignation is effective Sept. 11. While retaining the title of director, Shanks agreed to delegate his duties and powers to the deputy director.

The commissioners said Larry Peck, the current deputy director, is expected to continue in that role.

During the next three months Shanks will prepare an analysis of options for long-term funding options for the department.

Shanks agreed in his letter of resignation that he would not sue the department or the state or participate in legal actions filed by third parties in reference to his employment.

The commission agreed both parties would draft a letter of reference to be used when potential future employers consider employing Shanks.

Statement from the Fish and Wildlife Commission:
We thank Dr. Shanks for stepping into a difficult situation, for embracing our vision and getting the Department of Fish and wildlife headed in the direction we requested.

He was the person we needed at the time.

We told Dr. Shanks his first day on the job that a wild salmon policy was years overdue and within 30 days he had a scientifically defensible draft that got us started where we needed to be.

In no way has the vision, policy direction or conservation emphasis of this commission changed today.

The Commission and department have many challenges ahead. It's time we move forward to focus on the resource and the business operations of the agency.

Statement from Bern Shanks:
Two years ago I was hired for my conservation and environmental leadership.

I was to put the resource first, and I've done that.

I was expected to develop a conservative, science-based wild salmon policy. The state now has the premier policy anywhere in the world.

I was to rebuild the trust and support of user groups who have traditionally supported fish and wildlife conservation. I've done that.

I was to focus attention on habitat and department lands, and we have a stronger program now in Washington.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has a critical role to play in the next few years to maintain the quality of life so many Washingtonians love. This department must develop programs and long-term funding beyond the typical sports men and women if it is to be a leader in the future of fish and wildlife. Sports men and women cannot continue to be expected to pay the majority of program costs given the magnitude of the problems ahead.

It has been a pleasure to work with many of the conservation groups who are willing to work hard and sacrifice for Washington's future. I look forward to continuing my work with them on these important issues in the years ahead.

In other business, the commission:

  • Directed WDFW to prepare a letter to Congress supporting proposed changes to federal law that would allow the state and federal agencies to move more quickly to manage California sea lion and Pacific harbor seal populations. The recommended changes would allow the agencies to kill marine mammals that threaten fish stocks in poor condition or conflict with human activities
  • Directed WDFW to prepare an analysis outlining how much money the department would need to perform its research, stewardship and enforcement functions to levels expected by the public. The analysis is to include the benefits the state would receive from improved WDFW service. The information may be used in an effort to convince the Legislature to schedule a referendum to provide WDFW a stable funding source. At present, WDFW receives less than 1 percent of the state's General Fund
  • Delegated to the director authority to approve a Puget Sound Groundfish Management Plan and other efforts to protect and improve Puget Sound groundfish stocks. WDFW biologists told the commission many stocks, including rockfish, sole, flounder and Pacific cod, are in poor and even critical condition. Bruce Crawford, who directs WDFW's Fish Management Program, said a key element of the plan requires conservative harvests when little is known about the status of a groundfish stock
  • Authorized the director to prepare a plan to develop marine protected areas to help groundfish stocks recover. WDFW biologists said the public and tribes would participate in a public process to choose and develop the marine reserves. Biologists said such reserves, where fishing and other similar activities can be limited or banned, are much more productive than fished areas
  • Delegated to the director authority to adopt and implement an Olympia oyster stock rebuilding plan. The plan would promote the recovery of Olympia oysters, which are native to Washington, on public tidelands. Stocks fell due to overharvests and the flow of pulp mill wastes into Puget Sound over the past century
  • Adopted a rule requiring commissioners to recuse themselves from decisions and transactions in which they have a financial interest