Fight WA Senate Bills 5721 & HB 2027 now! Bad for the Environment!

Washington State Senators Van de Wege (D) and Salomon (D -32) have put forward a bill (SB 5721) along with Representatives Chapman (D) and Tharinger (D) (HB2027) to either consolidate or study the idea of consolidating the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Parks Department into the Department of Natural Resources and give the current head of DNR, Commissioner of Public Lands (CPL) Hilary Franz, total control over our parks, fish and wildlife as well as DNR.

How did this bill get put out into the legislature? What was the impetus for this? ( In the past, sometimes these efforts were snuck in so as to get new proposals by the leadership into the public view.) Who actually is behind getting these bills to rural Democratic legislators? Why did they support this without consulting with environmental organizations and their members that contribute to their campaigns? Why has there been zero coverage on an issue of this magnitude in the Olympia and Seattle press? There are far more questions than answers.

The House bill, to be clear, it’s not advocating the same thing as the Senate Bill, but calls for a task force to look into the possibility of changing the structure of WDFW. While it is not technically a companion bill it opens the door to some kind of compromise that might start the process if they sneak out of committee.

Some of what this may be about, could be the legislature attempting to insert itself into the ongoing controversy at the wildlife commission and WDFW in specific. This news outlet has reported about that controversy in the last month.

DNR exists to make money off our forests for public schools, fights fires, and leases our shorelines to aquaculture. Currently out of 78% of timber sales, DNR only funnels a small fraction for school construction. Hilary Franz has done a very good job of fighting fires in the last two years, but has done a terrible job at leasing public shorelines. Just in the last year, she allowed a commercial aquaculture business to lease and expand into the Dungeness National Refuge, a move opposed by environmentalists (and the Refuge management) here on the Peninsula. Her leases to aquaculture have lost in court battles in the last two years, as environmental groups have successfully fought to show that the leases were made without a clear understanding of the damage being done to the shoreline. DNR is currently being sued by prominent environmental organizations. When a reporter asked her about the Dungeness lease, she claimed she did not even know what he was talking about. Is this the kind of oversight that we want for our Parks and Fish and Wildlife department? While there is plenty to criticize in WDFW and also many dedicated employees and programs that do good works, this proposal seems to be something to kill before it gets to be a bigger problem.

The hearing on the Senate bill is Tuesday at 1:30. You can weigh in yourself right now, at the following link.

Here’s the link to sign up:   https://app.leg.wa.gov/CSI/Senate
When you get to the page, select the first committee “Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks”.  Then select January 25th and then SB 5721. Unless you want to testify as an individual, select “I would like my position noted for the legislative record” – when you click on that link, it will take you to the page to select your position “Pro, Con, Other” and then type in your name, address, etc.

The hearing on the House Bill is on Wednesday the 26th at 10 AM. This is sponsored by Representative Tharinger and Chapman. The link to weigh in is also on the state website.

Follow the instructions for the Senate bill above.

The Clallam County Democrats are holding a “Let’s Talk” meeting on Wednesday evening. Part of this is meeting is to discuss re-electing Democrats. This would likely be a very good time to bring this issue up. Sign up by checking back here for the Zoom link: http://www.clallamdemocrats.org/calendar.html

The Jefferson County Democrats meet on Thursday night at 6PM. It would be an appropriate time to make your voice heard there as well.

This is very poor timing because the governor will be appointing 3 new commissioners on Monday – all three are very conservation-minded. Unfortunately, the Senate can take up to a year to approve the appointments (for instance, several appointees on the commission have still not been approved by the Senate, even though they sit on the committee and have already made decisions on behalf of the department/state). In addition, it is a very bad precedent to consolidate these agencies. If this bill goes through, CPL Hilary Franz would appoint the director of WDFW/Parks and also the commissioners, who would then serve in an “advisory” roles. It would give way too much power to current and future CPL. Can you imagine what would happen if Republicans take back the position of DNR (an elected position) and put in someone who has an agenda to commercialize the Parks? Given her background in giving up the Refuge to aquaculture, could we rule out that Hilary would not do such a thing either?

This newsletter is not alone in it’s point of view. Long time Olympic Forest Coalition board president Connie Gallant, who has promoted the highly popular Wild Olympics legislation, is strongly opposed to this move.According to Connie, the board of OFCO has also taken an official stance against the bill. We have also been told that the Washington Environmental Council has also decided to take a stand against the bill(s) and will be adding this to their “Hot List” this week.

Sallie Harrison a long time local environmentalist, summed it up as follows:

“DNR cannot even do their own job correctly. Most all of their logging projects result in short-term disasters ( landslides, habitat loss in both land and aquatic settings) and long-term produce a shocking amount of problems with ecosystem degradation and associated wildlife demise. There is no way such a plan (i.e. the Senate Bill) could result in anything but a gigantic, moribund State Agency with no coherent means of carrying out the missions of the two absorbed agencies mentioned, yet alone correct it’s own long-standing deficiencies.


If reform is felt to be needed at WDFW and/or the State Parks, then the State Leg and the Gov’s office can deal with those existing agencies. DNR has it’s own desperately needed reform issues, as current lawsuits against it illustrate. “

Thanks to Connie Gallant for her initial work on bringing this issue to our attention and others who have sent in information clarifying these bills in the last few hours.

7 Responses

  1. DNR is a reveunue generator, maybe. DFW and Parks are service organizations. Different objectives!

    Leave DFW and Parks alone, please.

    Thx for keeping us posted.

  2. Al, thanks for being so on top of ongoing legislation.

  3. This one stinks.

  4. I have no dog in the fight in your state, but wish I could weigh in – or rather weigh against. Here in Massachusetts, the state park system is overseen by the DCR – Department of Conservation and Recreation. What a conflict of interest that is, pitting the need to protect wildlife etc against the desire of humans to have unfettered use of the parks. Enhance old unused railroad tracks to create a Rail Trail for bicycle riders? Sure thing, who cares if it passes through prime nesting areas for Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. Bicyclists gotta bicycle! The DCR staff manning the parks are, to a person, exemplary and knowledgeable and kind. It’s the policy makers who may be a bit misguided, just my opinion. Good luck!

  5. Yes and our local State Senator should answer all those questions before voting to advance the proposed bill. AND the Jefferson County Democratic Party should press the issue. What, pray tell, is the benefit to Washington State citizens of consolidating more power over our lives in the hands of a single bureaucrat?

  6. The meeting is not on Monday. It’s Tuesday. Also, there is a similar bill in the House regarding WDFW. HB 2027.

    On Sun, Jan 23, 2022 at 10:25 AM Olympic Peninsula Environmental News wrote:

    > Al Bergstein posted: ” Washington State Senators Van de Wege and Salomon > have put forward a bill (SB 5721)to consolidate the Department of Fish and > Wildlife and the Parks Department into the Department of Natural Resources > and give the current head of DNR, Commissioner of Publ” >

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