The 2022 Legislative Session is a short, mid-biennium 60-day session intended to address emerging needs that can’t wait for the next full session in 2023.
In late summer, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved capital and operating budget proposals for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for the 2022 session, which the Department submitted to the Office of Financial Management in September of 2021. The commission authorized WDFW to request $24 million in maintenance funding needs, $13 million in emerging needs, $4 million in expenditure authority of dedicated accounts, and $68 million in capital funding.
Our state recognizes the wisdom of investing in Washington’s natural resources. Funding WDFW’s work unlocks access and enjoyment of the outdoors lifestyles that are good for physical and mental health, while ensuring resilient natural resource ecosystems.
2022 operating funding emerging needs
Solar Expansion and Habitat Protection, $400K
Proposals to develop industrial solar power facilities are booming in Washington with 33 proposals under consideration that would cover over 70 square miles. Most of that land is functional shrubsteppe, one of Washington’s most diverse ecosystems that provides habitat for species found nowhere else in the state, such as the Greater sage grouse and pygmy rabbit. With an estimated 80% of historic shrubsteppe lost or degraded to development and agriculture, protecting remaining shrubsteppe habitats is more important than ever. Renewable energy and conservation communities see increasing urgency around the issue of balancing habitat needs with solar facility development. This request would fund two new staff for WDFW to: 1) inform permitting and mitigation decisions for solar facility proposals; and 2) participate in forums to identify areas and policies that promote habitat-friendly solar facilities.
Forage Fish Spawning Monitoring, $700K
Forage fish are a foundation of marine food webs. Several of these critical species spawn in nearshore habitat and are increasingly at risk from shoreline development, armoring, toxic runoff, and chemical spills. WDFW is a leader in protecting forage fish species, which include herring, sand lance, smelt, and anchovy, and their habitat. The Department uses Washington Conservation Corps crews to perform this science to document the location, condition, and seasonal use of spawning habitat. After 2021, WDFW will not have the resources to continue this work as funding for these crews, which have performed most of these surveys since 2014, ended unexpectedly. This funding will enable the Department to continue this critical need for long-term monitoring and research that many agencies rely upon.
Salmon Recovery and GMA Integration, $1.3M
Achieving salmon recovery goals directly depends on land use decisions made at the city and county levels. However, the Growth Management Act (GMA) planning activities for Washington cities and counties do not effectively integrate Salmon Recovery Plans, and therefore do not consider habitat needs of the state’s invaluable salmon stocks. WDFW needs additional staff capacity to help local governments achieve salmon recovery goals and outcomes. Focused initially on King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, WDFW will assist local partners in revising their Comprehensive Plans and Critical Areas Ordinances (CAOs) during the next scheduled GMA periodic update, which occurs only once every eight years. WDFW needs this capacity immediately, as King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties (and the cities/towns within them) will begin working on their GMA updates in July 2022 to meet their June 2024 deadline.
Freshwater Monitoring $2.6M
The Freshwater river systems of the Puget Sound basin and Washington coast provide convenient recreation opportunities for many Washington residents, and important economic benefits for rural communities. But if not managed effectively, these fisheries could also slow or prevent the recovery of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Monitoring the abundance, productivity, and life-history diversity of wild salmon populations is an essential component of effective fisheries management, and WDFW proposes improving this monitoring by initiating surveys of anglers and estimating when, where, and how many ESA-listed species are encountered in Puget Sound and Coastal river fisheries. This request also includes increasing monitoring in targeted watersheds such as the Lake Washington, Nisqually River, and the Willapa Basins.
Meeting Increasing Recreation Needs $3.5M
Visits to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) managed lands have increased dramatically, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to unprecedented trash, vandalism, and unauthorized activity on WDFW-managed lands. Increasing capacity to conserve natural and cultural resources and provide high-quality recreation, this funding request supports: on-the-ground staff and service contracts; recreation planning, rules development, data management, outreach and partnership development; and key infrastructure improvements. This investment will enable WDFW to improve recreation facilities and safety, support habitat protection, and enhance community engagement.
Building Salmon Team Capacity, $1M
Salmon management requires extensive data and analysis to understand fisheries impacts and maintain fishing opportunities. Tribal co-management, coupled with ensuring salmon fisheries are compliant with Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST) requirements, requires a broad understanding of salmon science, policy, tribal law, and how they intersect. This proposal adds strategically focused staff that enhance WDFW's ability to support salmon conservation through higher level quantitative analysis and scientific precision. These key staff will also support both internal collaboration with cross-program science and policy, as well as external communication.
Fish Passage Rulemaking, $300K
WDFW is reviewing Chapter 77.57 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) (known as the Fishways, Flow, and Screening Statutes) to implement new rules surrounding fish passage improvement and water diversion work. Full adoption of the rules will enable WDFW to better protect all fish species and their habitats. Puget Sound salmon populations are at historically low numbers due in part to barriers blocking fish passage and improperly designed water diversions. Without significant change, salmon are unlikely to recover, and Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcas) will continue to struggle due to lack of prey. This proposal will allow for the continuation of rulemaking that began in July 2020 and supports a robust public process prior to adoption.
License Reduction and Alternative Gear: Columbia River, $3.4M
In 2020, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) adopted a policy to promote orderly fisheries, support the conservation and recovery of wild salmon and steelhead, and enhance the economic well-being and stability of the Columbia River fishing industry. The importance of policy implementation was emphasized by Gov. Jay Inslee in a letter to the FWC in June 2021. WDFW is seeking funding to help advance the development and implementation of alternative gears, establish a license reduction program for commercial gillnet license holders, increase fishery assessment capabilities, and improve communication with the public and key stakeholders.
Hatchery Production and Compliance, $600K
For decades, WDFW has operated dozens of fish hatcheries around the state, but increased permitting costs and staffing challenges in recent years require an immediate response. WDFW plans to avoid disruptions and fulfill legal obligations at its hatcheries by hiring additional staff to “mark” hatchery fish. These staff are charged with clipping the adipose fins of certain fish to help anglers differentiate between wild and hatchery fish. The Department is also requesting additional funds to accommodate increased permit costs and workload needs for meeting additional requirements to monitor hatchery discharges and water quality, and one-time funding will secure necessary state and federal permits to support hatchery maintenance activities and ensure Hydraulic Project Approval compliance with local, state, and federal regulations. This is a request for expenditure authority to apply restricted funding to dedicated accounts.
Monitoring Recreation Shellfish Harvest, $300K
Puget Sound shellfishing is increasingly popular with the public. Yet, effective and sustainable management and shellfish harvest estimates depend on reliable data and modeling. WDFW is requesting additional shellfish population monitoring and fisheries capacity to update historic harvest, recreational effort, and other data. The ability to gather updated and expanded data will allow WDFW to improve fisheries management, adhere to tribal co-manager management plan commitments, and continue to provide sustainable shellfishing opportunities in Puget Sound.PL-SS Safe & Sanitary Water Access Areas. This is a request for expenditure authority to apply restricted funding to dedicated accounts.
Safe and Sanitary Water Access Areas, $500K
WDFW manages over one million acres of publicly owned land statewide, including 33 wildlife areas and 500+ water access areas. With the COVID-19 pandemic renewing interest in outdoor recreation, approximately 32 million people visited WDFW lands in 2020. Along with a dramatic increase in visitors came an increase in dumping, vandalism, using public lands as toilets, and other negative and inappropriate activities. WDFW is seeking additional one-time funds to maintain public facilities and protect natural and cultural resources and wildlife habitats, while at the same time providing quality recreation opportunities for visitors. This investment will also pay for improved signage to educate visitors on how to recreate responsibly, with a result of cleaner, better maintained, and safer places to recreate. This is a request for expenditure authority to apply restricted funding to dedicated accounts.
Improving wildlife monitoring: Elk, deer, turkey, upland bird, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats, $2.4M
Deer, elk, and bighorn sheep monitoring strengthens the Department's ability to understand factors addressing populations and address its stakeholders' concerns. In recent years, the Department has increased monitoring accuracy using radio collars funded through one-time state and federal funding opportunities. However, these deployed radios will begin to lose battery life and need to be refurbished. The Department will use these funds to update and buy new collars, capture and collar deer, elk, and bighorn sheep, and expand efforts for more accurate management.
The Department currently relies on turkey hunter harvest reports to understand turkey population status and distribution. To improve our understanding of turkey populations, WDFW will implement population monitoring surveys, restore habitat to benefit turkeys, review ways to offer mentored hunts, and focus hunter efforts on private lands experiencing damage.
Washington hunters and wildlife viewers need access to public and private lands to participate in the activities that are important to them. Some of these areas support turkey populations, which are critical for regulated recreational harvest opportunities. To ensure long-term, sustainable turkey populations remain in Washington, we are pursuing turkey habitat enhancements on both private and public lands. This is a request for expenditure authority to apply restricted funding to dedicated accounts.
Supplemental Maintenance Level Packages, $24 Million
Each year the Department requests funding to meet routine, unavoidable cost increases associated with maintaining day-to-day activities. These costs span items such as janitorial services, minimum wage adjustments, cultural resource review capacity, utility rates, enforcement dispatch communications, wildfire suppression, wildfire habitat recovery, equipment maintenance and software, equipment replacements, mass marker trailer operations, and other funds adjustments.
2022 capital funding emerging needs
The Department is requesting nearly $68 million request in capital funding for a variety of projects, including: $2.2 million to continue Deschutes Watershed Center Hatchery work in Tumwater, $14.5 million to acquire critical elk habitat (Hoffstadt Hills) near Mount Saint Helens, and $51 million for the Duckabush Estuary Restoration Project to restore 38 acres of critical salmon and wetland habitat on Hood Canal.
Past 2021-2023 session
In 2021, the Washington State revenue forecasts had indicated a shifting deficit and yet the Governor’s initial budget proposal, released mid-December 2021, largely recognized the need to continue fish and wildlife investments during that time of increased public pressure and enjoyment of the outdoors. Despite initial concerns around funding shortfalls and potential service cuts, the 2021 Legislature provided significant general fund support of fish and wildlife activities.
2021-2023 Operational funds
In the 2021-2023 legislative budget, WDFW received $28 million in new operational general funds to address requested and proviso-driven emerging needs from across the state.
- WDFW asked for $2.5 million funding for Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) Assistance for Landowners and received $1.2 million of ongoing funding.
- WDFW asked for and rederived $300K for Wildlife Rehabilitation on a onetime basis.
- WDFW asked for $2.8 million for Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) work and received $6 million, including an additional $3.2 million requested during session for pass-through to SeaGrant, tribes, and Northwest Straits for European Green Crab management, as well as additional funding for ballast water monitoring, westside AIS check station staffing, and aquarium emphasis patrols.
- WDFW asked for and received $2.7 million for Marine Mammal Management.
- WDFW asked for and received $2.5 million for Fisheries Monitoring.
As a result of legislature budget provisos, WDFW also received:
- $2.8 million for ongoing law enforcement
- $2.35 million in general funds, and $1.5 million in capital funds for shrubsteppe and wildfire recovery
- WDFW received a $600K to pilot and test New Zealand-Style elk fencing to reduce elk crop and property damage in the Skagit Valley
- $100K related to cougar management
- $300K for Coastal Steelhead Monitoring
- $954K for conflict mitigation strategies and $260K in one-time funding for third-party facilitation
- $5.6 million for increased tribal and PUD hatchery production
- $465K for chronic wasting disease prevention and surveillance
- $630K for PCB research and monitoring
- $502K for Northern Pike eradication and monitoring
- $90K in one-time funds for Cowlitz River Hook Mortality Survey
- $400K in one-time funds for pinto abalone recovery
- $250K in one-time funds for Forest Practices adaptive management
- $182K to support Safe Harbor Agreement as pass-through from DNR
- $660K for GMA climate change efforts as part of the Department of Commerce’s $3.3 million proviso
2021-2023 Capital Budget
- The Department received an appropriation of $71.6 million in new capital funding. Projects span forest health treatments, wildlife area improvements, hatchery improvements, cooperative fencing projects, and 24 minor work projects. Reappropriations were funded at $51.2 million, which matched the agency’s request.