This proposed bill would expand eligibility on reduced rate fishing and hunting licenses to residents with a permanent disability documented by a medical provider. Current state law limits this eligibility to only certain types of disabilities, which leaves out thousands of other Washingtonians with disabilities. The agency proposes to offer any resident with a permanent disability a discount of 50% on both a resident hunting and fishing license.
The agency's intent in bringing forward this bill is to increase recreational license fees by 15%, to have the authority to increase recreational license fees in the future based on inflation, to extend the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead endorsement by five years, and to expand our capacity to encourage hunting and fishing recruitment opportunities. For encouraging recruitment opportunities, this bill raises the age at which one qualifies for youth discounts up to 16, allows temporary fishing licenses for popular fishing locations, allows the agency to bundle promotional packages and offer discounts, and creates a discount for new hunters upon completion of their hunter education training course.
WDFW has experienced chronic budget shortfalls due to a gap between available funding and required spending. The agency submitted a budget proposal requesting $31 million in funding from general funds, which would meet 75% of WDFW's budget needs. The remaining 25% of funding is being requested through HB 1708/SB 5692 as a 15% increase in recreational hunting and fishing license fees. To cushion the impact on people who buy multiple hunting and fishing licenses, this 15% increase includes caps of $7 for fishing and $15 for hunting license packages.
The population of southern resident killer whales has dropped to 74, the lowest number in more than 30 years. These endangered marine mammals are struggling to raise calves, due to increased disturbances from vessels, high levels of contaminants, and a lack of prey, such as chinook salmon. The governor's budget for 2019-21 biennium includes $20.8 million for boosting hatchery production of salmon, increasing the enforcement of laws protecting shorelines, reducing vessel traffic near orcas, and pursuing new options for managing the amount of predation on salmon from fish, seals, and sea lions.
Salmon hatchery production can play an important role in increasing prey abundance for southern resident orcas. The governor's operating budget includes $11.6 million for hatchery production with $6.35 million for increasing 24.1 million salmon. The remaining $5.25 million will be used for existing hatchery production. In addition, our co-managers are seeking $3 million State General Fund for WDFW to pass through to western Washington treaty tribes to increase salmon production to benefit southern resident killer whales.
Our capital budget request includes funding for 63 smaller projects designed to reduce the current backlog of repair and restoration work on department lands and facilities. Each of these minor works projects is valued at less than $1 million and can be competed in a single biennium. The estimate cost of our proposed minor works project list for 2019-21 is $24.4 million.
WDFW is requesting $762,000 from the 2019-21 budget to fully fund Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILT). In addition, the agency has recommendations to revise the PILT program. Fully funding and revising the program would meet the legislature's commitment to counties, address concerns expressed by county officials, and allow for public access to outdoor recreation.
This factsheet explains WDFW's legislative priorities as well as the fiscal impact to and the potential revenue gain for the agency.
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).