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
"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
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
- 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.
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.
- A projected over-expenditure of $100,000 in the Fish and Wildlife
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
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.
The terminated BPA contract required additional enforcement cuts including six
field officers, two detectives, one program manager and one pilot.
- $684,000 and 5.2 positions in Wildlife Management.
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."