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

May 15, 1998
Contact: Margaret Ainscough, (360) 902-2408

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Fish and Wildlife Commission acts on budget cuts

OLYMPIA -- A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife budget reduction plan that cuts about 100 staff positions was adopted yesterday by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

"This is the blackest day I've seen since I've been on the commission," said Commission Chair Lisa Pelly following the commission's unanimous vote to approve more than $11 million in agency budget cuts.

"We've been living in limbo long enough," Pelly added, noting the weeks of uncertainty that have hung over the agency while the budget reduction package was being crafted. "The best thing we can do is move forward and allow the agency to start healing itself."

The spending cuts, most of which will take effect around July 1, address all areas of shortfall in the WDFW 1997-1999 biennial budget including:

  • A $7.5 million shortfall in the Wildlife Fund due to overly optimistic fishing and hunting license revenue projections and declining actual license sales.
  • A $1.57 million shortfall in federal Pittman-Robertson revenue-sharing funds, which are returned to states from excise taxes on nationwide handgun and ammunition sales.
  • A $1.5 million canceled Bonneville Power Administration contract which had funded 10 WDFW enforcement officer positions.
  • Over-expenditures of $648,000 for agency staffing and new initiatives.
  • A projected over-expenditure of $100,000 in the Fish and Wildlife Commission's budget.
The operational reductions include statewide hatchery fish production cutbacks of 12 percent in steelhead, 14 percent in trout and 6 percent in Kokanee. The Reiter Ponds Hatchery in Snohomish County and the Lakewood Hatchery in Pierce County will close under the plan. The Colville Hatchery in Stevens County -- the third hatchery slated for closure -- was spared by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation which agreed to pay the hatchery's $78,000 annual operating cost.

Of the 100 staff positions slated for cuts, 40 are vacant. Thirteen of the positions to be eliminated are field enforcement officers.

As part of the budget reduction package nine agency programs were reduced to five and staff cuts were focused in administrative positions in the agency's Olympia headquarters.

The $7.5 million Wildlife Fund shortfall necessitated operation and staff cutbacks by program include reductions of:

  • $1.8 million and 24.5 positions in Administrative Services.
  • $2.26 million and 31.4 positions in Hatcheries/Fish Management.
  • $1.4 million and 15 positions in Habitat/Lands.
  • $1.16 million and 9.4 positions in Enforcement, of which five are officers.
  • $684,000 and 5.2 positions in Wildlife Management.
The terminated BPA contract required additional enforcement cuts including six field officers, two detectives, one program manager and one pilot.

Elsewhere in the agency, the Pittman-Robertson fund shortfall translated to cuts of 9.6 positions, of which 3 were vacant.

Reductions made to make up for unbudgeted agency expenditures included 5.5 positions, of which a .7 part-time position was vacant. In addition, the commission cut its executive assistant to help meet its own budget shortfall.

"This is clearly the most difficult and painful work any of us has had to do with the department," said WDFW Director Bern Shanks about the spending cuts. "It is time to stabilize the Fish and Wildlife ship."