Thursday of last week, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife submitted a supplemental funding request to the Governor’s office, to the tune of $26 million. The hope is continued support from the Governor and legislature to fund current services, tackle emerging issues and deal with other monetary difficulties that cannot be avoided due to underlying structural deficits.

Roughly a quarter of that, $6.7m, would go toward ongoing services. Per the press release from the WDFW on Sept 20, what we can expect to see without the supplemental funding is:

  • Cuts to species and habitat conservation;
  • Cuts to fish and shellfish management and eight salmon and trout hatcheries;
  • Cuts to hunting opportunities;
  • Cuts to non-lethal methods of managing conflict between people and wildlife.
  • Cuts to shellfish inspections for the benefit of public safety;
  • Cuts in access to salmon and steelhead fishing on portions of the Columbia River and its tributaries;
  • Cuts to maintenance and forest health treatments across the million acres of public land managed by the department; and
  • Cuts to customer service.

Another approximate quarter ($6.8m) would go towards emerging needs, such as:

  • Habitat recovery on more than 22,000 acres of public land burned by wildfires in 2019;
  • Help for property owners to provide fish protections, as recommended by the Governor’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force;
  • Removal of sea lions preying on Columbia River salmon, as recommended by the Governor’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force;
  • Columbia River fishery commitments;
  • Humpback whale protections; and
  • Continuation of a mobile app to help anglers comply with fishing rules.

However, the bulk of the requested supplemental funds ($12.5m) are geared towards cost of living wage increases for WDFW staff, utility increases and centralized state services.

“I recognize that this is a sizable request, especially in a supplemental session. We would rather not be in this position of requesting a substantial amount of money to sustain basic, core activities that we know provide such fundamental public value,” said WDFW Director, Kelly Susewind. “We estimate that for every State General Fund tax dollar invested in WDFW, and leveraged with other fund sources, that fish and wildlife economic activities generate another $3.50 that goes back into the state coffers. We’re seeking adequate, ongoing funding to sustain that kind of return on investment into the future.”

Per the WDFW, “fishing, hunting, and wildlife-watching activities contribute over $4.5 billion each year in economic activity, and nearly $350 million per biennium directly to the State General Fund.”