Legislative priorities

Protecting the confidentiality of other states’ fisheries information

Proposal Overview: The sharing of confidential data among WDFW and partner agencies is a key element of successful fisheries management on the West Coast. Many fishers participate in multiple fisheries and deliver their catches into multiple states. WDFW provides confidentiality protection for information collected in Washington state fisheries, and the federal government provides the same protection for federal and tribal fisheries. However, many fishers participate in multiple fisheries and deliver their catches into multiple states, and data received from other states are not provided the same protection.

Sharing data among states is therefore often necessary to enforce regulations, understand fisheries performance, and analyze the need for and likely effects of potential rule changes. Most recently it is has also become important for analyzing the effects of activities like offshore wind development on fishing communities.

Solution: This proposal would provide confidentiality protection under Washington law for data shared by other states and allow WDFW to fully participate in collaborative conservation and management with partner agencies from the other states.

Allow concurrent application for habitat recovery pilot project (HRPP) permits and cultural resources reviews

Proposal Overview: The Habitat Recovery Pilot Program (HRPP) was developed to streamline the local and state environmental permitting process for habitat recovery projects that benefit fish or their habitats. This pilot program intends to promote and implement habitat restoration as quickly and efficiently as possible, thereby bolstering the natural resources and natural resource economy of Washington. Currently, regarding cultural resources, the HRPP requires that before applying for a Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) permit under the program, applicants must review their proposed project with the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) and complete any required site surveys.

After receiving feedback from the restoration community and stakeholders as to the confusion and inefficiencies of this novel sequence, WDFW recommends aligning the cultural resources review requirements for an HPA with current practices before the pilot program sunsets to make an accurate determination of the impact and effectiveness of permit streamlining programs.

Solution: This proposal will remove the requirement that review DAHP must be completed before applying to the HRPP, and instead allow for concurrent processing. This aligns the cultural resource review requirements with the flood risk reduction requirements under this program and allows the state HPA to be issued without relying first on federal permitting and still clearly identifies that a cultural resources review is not excused under the program, in addition to any permit or approval required for participation in a federal program. This will modify the HRPP qualifying process to be consistent with the standard HPA process as well as the alternative streamlined Fish Habitat Enhancement Process

Expand recreational land management authority to better utilize non-profits and volunteers

Proposal Overview: The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission currently has the authority to manage Department owned lands and water access sites. Department staff maintain and operate 1 million acres of public land and 500 water access sites. Maintenance includes signage and trail maintenance, removal of invasive plants, restoration of riparian areas, and more.

In 2014, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) adopted a statute to expressly authorize collective agreements with nonprofits and other partners. The agreements vary and can be for multiple years or for on-call work. These collective agreements are not required and do not replace existing agreements. WDFW needs the authority to enter into cooperative agreements to benefit WDFW-managed lands. 

Solution: This proposal would mirror the DNR statute in the WDFW RCW to give WDFW express authority to manage conservation and recreation areas, water access sites, and trails in conjunction with any other public agency, nonprofit organizations, volunteers, or volunteer organizations for the benefit of WDFW-managed lands. It will also add liability language where volunteers from nonprofits or other organizations are not considered employees or agents of the Department, and the Department will not be subject to any liability arising out of volunteer activities or projects.  We believe that this will increase non-profit and volunteer efforts on our lands, leading to better public experience at our Wildlife Areas and Water Access Areas.

Increase state funding for crop damage by deer and elk

Proposal Overview:  In 1996, the Washington State Legislature created funding for certain elk or deer related commercial crop damage payments, which limited compensation from the General Fund-State to $30,000 statewide per fiscal year. The number and cost of claims the Department receives has increased significantly over the last 30 years and single claims may only exceed $10,000 by requiring a claimant to file an administrative appeal even if the Department agrees with the loss amount. Because the funding is limited in statute, the Department is unable to spend additional General Fund-State funding on these damage claims within a fiscal year. Therefore, unpaid claims are carried over year-to-year once funding is again available.

This limitation prevents WDFW from serving communities that experience higher levels of crop damage from wildlife, particularly deer and elk.

Solution: This proposal would accomplish the following:

  • Increase the limit of General Fund-State compensation for certain commercial crop damage from $30,000 per fiscal year to $300,000 per fiscal year to address the increase in damage claims and costs,
  • Change the required appeal damage claim amounts from $10,000 to $30,000 which would reduce process and time for both the Department and the claimant and reduce the administrative costs of unnecessary appeals,
  • Limit the carryover of unpaid claims to a single subsequent fiscal year,
  • Limit appeal awards to no greater than $30,000 in value, and
  • Require the Department to submit a report to the Legislature recommending amendments to the crop damage statutes in RCW.
  • Factsheet: Deer and Elk Crop Damage Funding

2023 Legislative Priorities

One WDFW-requested bill passed the Legislature in 2023: Concerning permitting for certain hatchery maintenance activities.

  • Concerning permitting for certain hatchery maintenance activities

    Overview: There is often uncertainty from local government whether hatchery activities can be considered normal maintenance and operations because those activities include sediment removal and the placement of structures that are more often associated with new development. Local governments may require a permit for this work or for the placement of a temporary weir across a stream, which is a typical part of hatchery operations.

    Because WDFW is considered the agency with expertise in safely conducting in-water work to protect fish, other authorities often defer to WDFW’s expertise on such work when granting permits. This permitting process reduces the efficiency and timeliness of hatchery maintenance.

    This bill mirrored a current exception from Shoreline Management Act permitting for maintenance and repair completed by the Department of Transportation. Activities related to the maintenance, repair, or replacement of equipment and components that support a fish hatchery undertaken by WDFW, a federally recognized Indian tribe, a public utility district, or a municipal utility will no longer require a substantial development permit, conditional use permit, variance, letter of exemption, or other review conducted by a local government pursuant to the Shoreline Management Act.

    Fact sheet: Hatchery maintenance
  • Recreational fishing licenses required for freshwater smelt, crawfish, and common carp

    Proposal Overview: Licenses are a gateway to knowing the rules and regulations for fisheries in Washington state. Part of the licensing process requires participants to read the annual fishing pamphlet and abide by the rules when fishing which helps maintain more orderly fisheries.

    Solution: This legislation would remove the current exemption from a fishing license for freshwater smelt, carp, and crawfish, to allow for regulation and monitoring of those species.

    Fact sheet: Recreational licenses
    Note: This bill was reintroduced in the 2024 legislative session: Providing for recreational licensing of eulachon, crawfish, and carp.
  • Fish, wildlife, shellfish, and seaweed disease prevention authority for highway signage to voluntary check stations

    Proposal Overview: Fish, wildlife, shellfish, and seaweed diseases can spread across the United States. This can occur through natural movement or through transportation of fish, wildlife, shellfish, and seaweed by humans. Currently, Washington is increasing efforts to prevent chronic wasting disease from establishing in the state. Broadening the Department’s checkpoint authority and ability to notify the public of checkpoints will allow for further biological sampling and monitoring of relevant species.

    Solution: WDFW is seeking the authority to post signage for disease checkpoints and request voluntary compliance. This legislation would create a new chapter in RCW 77 to include fish, wildlife, shellfish, and seaweed infectious disease interdiction and control.

    Fact sheet: Fish, wildlife, shellfish, and seaweed disease checkpoints
  • Capitalizing an account to provide for shoreline restoration revolving funds

    Proposal Overview: When private property owners are interested in solving hard armor failings with healthy shoreline alternatives or asked to consider removal of hard armor from their property, the upfront costs to address armor and shorefront property solutions can be challenging.

    Solution: WDFW is proposing a one-time capitalization of $4.5 million into a dedicated account that would allow for low interest and easy repayment Shore-Loans to private property owners for their restoration of healthy shorelines and hard armor removal.

    Fact sheet: Shoreline revolving fund

2022 Legislative Priorities

Three WDFW-requested bills were passed by the Legislature in 2022.

  • Expanding Eligibility for the ADA Advisory Committee

    Proposal Overview: In 2001, the Legislature directed the Fish and Wildlife Commission to appoint seven volunteers to serve on an advisory committee. This committee represents the interests of disabled hunters, anglers, and wildlife viewers on matters pertaining to barriers to recreational access to public lands, WDFW managed lands, and hunting and fishing opportunities for persons with disabilities. This committee works closely with the Department to review, enhance, and create more recreational opportunities.

    As currently written, the requirements to be a member of the ADA Advisory Committee (RCW 77.04.150) for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are too narrow. Eligible members are individuals with a disability, with preference given to individuals with specific disabilities.

    Solution: WDFW is seeking legislative changes to remove the language that preferences certain disabilities for membership on the advisory committee; as well as adding language to include individuals who have demonstrable experience working with disabled persons in a natural resource environment.

    These changes will broaden membership eligibility on the committee for individuals with all types of disabilities and experienced caregivers.  It will also increase the performance of the committee by providing for diverse viewpoints and experiences to be included in discussions.

    Fact Sheet: Expanding Eligibility for ADA Advisory Committee

    March update: The bill passed the Legislature unanimously and was signed into law by the Governor on March 11, 2022. The Legislature also modified the requirements for the ADA Advisory Committee report to be more concise and submitted biennially.
  • Increasing Access to State Recreation Lands

    Proposal Overview: The Director of the State Parks and Recreation Commission has the authority to provide 12 free parking days per year. On those days, a Discover Pass is not required for parking at Washington State Parks. However, those free days do not apply to WDFW or Department of Natural Resource lands, often creating confusion for visitors. 

    Solution: This bill would authorize the Director of the State Parks Commission to expand free access days to all state recreational lands.  The expanded authority would include consulting with the director of WDFW and the Commissioner of Public Lands to designate the 12 days per calendar year where entry to all state recreation lands is free. When practicable, these free days could be timed to correspond with family fishing days planned by WDFW.

    Expanding existing State Parks free parking days to all state recreational lands will increase access to those lands for underrepresented communities and will reduce confusion overall for Discover Pass holders.

    Fact Sheet: Increasing Access to State Recreation Lands

    March update: The bill passed the Legislature unanimously and was signed into law by the Governor on March 17, 2022.
  • Improving Electronic and Print-From-Home Licenses

    Proposal Overview: Last year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife sold 963,000 fishing licenses and 238,000 hunting licenses along with 2 million other supporting documents including endorsements, tags, applications, raffle tickets, and passes. Roughly 27% of those licenses and documents are purchased online through the WDFW website.

    Current licensing statutes and rules often require customers to carry paper license documents. Customers that purchase a license online through the WDFW website are mailed a paper license and must have this paper license on hand when hunting or fishing.

    Solution: WDFW is seeking the authority to implement mobile licensing practices more broadly. Current mobile licensing and print-from-home options can be expanded to include cellular telephone based electronic licenses, tags, and permits. In addition, this will allow customers to display their licenses on a mobile device.

    Fact Sheet: Improving Electronic and Print-From-Home Licenses

    March update: The bill passed the Legislature unanimously and was signed into law by the Governor on March 11, 2022.

WDFW's Legislative Mandate

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife operates as the state's principal agency for species protection and conservation, under a mandate defined in Title 77 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). That legislative mandate directs the department to preserve, protect, perpetuate and manage fish and wildlife and to provide fishing and hunting opportunities. Department activities also are subject to provisions of Title 220 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC).