WA Supreme Court landmark decision on forestlands

This is an incredibly important ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court. Why? Because it opens up the real possibility of better timber management to protect old growth along with looking at harvest and its effect on global warming by DNR.

The basis of the lawsuit was this: Article 16, Sec on 1 of the Washington State Constitution states “all the public lands granted to the state are held in trust for all the people.”

Read on. Joint press release from Conservation Northwest, Washington Environmental Council, and Olympic Forest Coalition. Below it is DNR head, Hilary Franz’s response.


Washington State Supreme Court Rules in Conservation Northwest v Commissioner of Public Lands
In an unanimous decision, Court recognizes State’s authority to manage forestlands for public benefit.

OLYMPIA, WA— Today, the Washington State Supreme Court confirms that the state has a constitutional mandate and broad authority to serve “all the people” of Washington and the public interest when managing state lands. This unanimous decision in the case of Conservation Northwest, et al. v. Commissioner of Public Lands, et al . , recognizes that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can integrate the many diverse public benefits of forests into the management of state forestlands, beyond maximizing revenue genera on from timber harvests.


DNR has historically managed forestlands in ways that maximize revenue from logging, even at the expense of other public interests and benefits. This decision recognizes that the agency, Commissioner of Public Lands, Board of Natural Resources, and State of Washington have the power to manage public lands in ways that truly reflect and support our state’s evolving environmental, economic, and social needs.


The court’s decision states that DNR’s need to serve identified beneficiaries and DNR’s requirement under the State constitution to serve the public interest “should be construed in harmony.” As the Court explained, “[t]here appear to be myriad ways DNR could choose to generate revenue from the state and forest board lands or otherwise put them to use for the benefit of the enumerated beneficiaries.”


The court also states that DNR is not required to generate revenue specifically from timber harvests on state lands, but may elect to do so because of their discretion as trust managers. The agency is also not required to prioritize revenue maximization on in their land management.


“The battle we’ve been fighting is to achieve a fair balance. We have argued that the management of these lands has historically been pushed to maximize revenue. We have never fought to end all timber harvest on state lands,” said Peter Goldman, Director, Washington Forest Law Center and co-counsel for plaintiffs, “This decision confirms instead that the agency, Commissioner of Public Lands, Board of Natural Resources, and State of Washington does not have to maximize timber harvest or revenue generation, and have broad discretion on to balance revenue genera on for identified beneficiaries with management for the broader public interest. DNR and the Legislature now can design 21st Century forest management that meets the challenges we face today.”


Environmental organizations Conservation Northwest, Washington Environmental Council, and Olympic
Forest Coalition, as well as eight community members, brought forth the lawsuit arguing that the state constitution requires that the federally-granted public forestlands managed by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are “held in trust for all the people.” There are approximately 2 million acres of “state trust lands” that were granted to the state by the federal government upon statehood, including almost 1.5 million acres that are forested.


“The court issued a monumental conservation ruling. Over coming years and decades, this ruling will be cited in support of nature-protection policies made by the legislature and the DNR. In short, the nature of this trust is that the state has the discretion to protect the public’s resources,” said Mitch Friedman, Executive Director of Conservation Northwest.

“We are encouraged to see that the Washington State Supreme Court has recognized the power and broad discretion the State has to manage public lands for the benefit of all the people, and not just for maximum timber revenue. Our state’s forests provide immense benefits to all of us–people, trees, animals, and our futures. Washingtonians should not be forced to choose between harvesting timber for funding and having healthy forests to protect our air, water, habitat, and public health,” said Alyssa Macy, CEO of Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters. “This decision opens the door for the Department of Natural Resources to manage our public lands toward a healthy, equitable future for generations to come.”


“We are now seeing unprecedented changes in our state forests, habitats, and watersheds from climate disruption”, said Connie Gallant, President of the Olympic Forest Coalition , “We can no longer afford to mine our forests only for short term revenues, assuming without scientific evidence that they will continue to grow back indefinitely. We simply cannot blindly sacrifice the environment any more. The Court recognized that DNR and the Legislature must balance the interests of all the people , not only maximize revenue from timber harvests. This case has clearly put the responsibility on the Commissioner of Public Lands and the Legislature to resolve the policy differences, balance our interests and find a clear path forward. DNR has the discretion – their hands are no longer ed. We can manage for carbon, for science, for revenues, for all our interests. We literally have some of the most important forests in the world to either mi gate climate disruption or add to it. We shall see if the Commissioner of Public Lands and our elected officials take up the baton the Washington Supreme Court has passed to them and protect these forests.”


Article 16, Sec on 1 of the Washington State Constitution states “all the public lands granted to the state are held in trust for all the people.” Conservation NW et al. v. Commissioner of Public Lands et al. asked the court to interpret this constitutional language to require that the agency must consider both generating revenue and the multitude of other ecological benefits of state forestlands.


Upon Washington’s statehood in 1889, the federal government granted Washington 3 million acres of land through the Enabling Act to be held for the public and to support public institutions, including K-12 school construction and state universities. The Board of Natural Resources (BNR) sets policies for management of state trust lands, and management is carried out by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).


The environmental organizations and individuals in this case were represented by the Ziontz Chestnut law firm and the Washington Forest Law Center.


###


“Keeping the Northwest wild” since 1989, Conservation Northwest is a regional non-profit organization that protects, connects and restores wildlands and wildlife from the Washington Coast to the British Columbia Rockies. Staff operate in local communities and rural areas around Washington and into southern B.C., using dialogue to find common ground and collaborative solutions for challenging issues including habitat corridors, wilderness conservation, forest restoration and endangered species recovery.
The Olympic Forest Coalition (OFCO) promotes the protection, conservation and restoration of natural forest ecosystems and their processes on the Olympic Peninsula. This mission includes monitoring and caring for the public forests, watersheds and bays of the Peninsula. OFCO’s approach integrates science-based solutions that protect and restore natural ecosystems, threatened and endangered species, and healthy rural communities. OFCO incorporates the climate crisis and mitigating its impacts on the Olympic Peninsula as foundational for all of its work.


Washington Environmental Council is a nonprofit, statewide advocacy organization on that has been driving positive change to solve Washington’s most critical environmental challenges since 1967. Our mission is to protect, restore, and sustain Washington’s environment for all.


Commissioner Franz Statement in Response to Washington Supreme Court Ruling

OLYMPIA – Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, head of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), released the following statement in response to the Washington Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Conservation Northwest, et al. v. Commissioner of Public Lands et al., regarding the interpretation of the state Constitution’s policy on management of state trust lands:

“I believe strongly in our mission to protect public lands, support healthy forests, and provide essential benefits to the people of Washington.

“Today’s ruling affirms DNR’s position that it has discretion under the constitutional and legislative mandate to manage public lands on behalf of the communities we serve and ensure our public lands are providing the greatest environmental, social, and economic good.

“I also recognize that in the face of a rapidly changing climate, we must do everything we can to safeguard public lands and protect our forests. This is why DNR has made climate resilience and long-term sustainable land use a core part of our work, including being a nationwide leader in efforts to restore forest health and conserve forestland and critical habitat across our state.

“I look forward to our continued work to ensure Washington state’s public lands are healthy, support our communities, and are protected for generations to come.”

Beyond Pesticides Launches Campaign to Save Dungeness Spit from Aquaculture

Beyond Pesticides (BP) has apparently recently learned of the ongoing battle to save Dungeness Spit from an aquaculture farm, supported by Commissioner Hilary Franz and others in our local and state governments. While BP is late to this issue, we welcome their efforts to stop this while we still have a small chance.


In spite of the known harm to migratory and residential birds, salmon, forage fish, other wildlife and their primary feeding areas, and a recommendation by the National Marine Fisheries Service that “an alternative site be identified in a location that results in less potential impacts to wildlife that is more appropriate for aquaculture and meets the goals of the tribe,” permitting agencies approved permits and a lease for a 50-acre industrial oyster farm for private financial gain inside the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. This decision, which is in violation of the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, must be reversed.

Agencies are well aware of the potential damage to the lands it is their mission to protect.

>>Tell the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Dungeness National Wildlife lease must be rescinded.

The Dungeness Bay Wildlife Refuge was created by Executive Order in 1915 by Woodrow Wilson, directing the area to be set aside as a “refuge, preserve and breeding ground for native birds and prohibits any disturbance of the birds within the reserve.” The Refuge provides habitat, a preserve and breeding grounds for more than 250 species of birds and 41 species of land animals. 

The front page of the Refuge website states: “Pets, bicycles, kite flying, Frisbees, ball-playing, camping, and fires are not permitted on the Refuge as they are a disturbance for the many migrating birds and other wildlife taking solitude on the Refuge.” With this level of concern, it is counterintuitive to allow destructive industrial aquaculture. 

These detrimental effects to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge are NOT minimal. Among the negative impacts of this project are: 50% reduction in bird primary feeding grounds;  20,000 – 80,000 toxic plastic oyster bags that exclude the probing shorebird flocks from feeding deeply into the substrate, entrapment of fish and birds, add macro- and micro-plastic bits to the sediment throughout the refuge, and shift the benthic community composition; diminishment of the ecological benefits provided by eelgrass to threatened fish and birds, such as nourishment and cover from predators and, with warming waters, increased toxic algal blooms that will leave a graveyard of dead oysters. Additionally, commercial shellfish operations attract pathogens and non-native species that threaten the area ecosystem and the shellfish. Decision makers should not place financial benefits to the corporation above the long term and cumulative impacts to the refuge.

>>Tell the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Dungeness National Wildlife lease must be rescinded.

Two Countries, Two Government Officials, Poised to Make One Critical Decision

The Wild Fish Conservancy brings up the impending decisions on net pens that both BC and Washington officials will be making. Given a conversation that I had with Commissioner Franz last year, I hold very little hope of her doing the right thing. She seems either ignorant of the issues, letting staffers make the decisions, or in favor of industry on this topic. But your input now could make a difference. Call her office. 360-902-1000


No increased WA gas tax in ‘unprecedented’ $16.8B transportation budget – Crosscut

So Cap and Trade fees have helped us put an extra $3B into public transit along with good news for pedestrians and bicycles. But is it actually reducing CO2? To be determined.


Washington legislators keep calling this year’s $16.8 billion transportation budget proposal “unprecedented.” And in many ways it is. There’s $3 billion for public transit, a huge increase over previous packages. And a lot more money for pedestrian and bicycle improvements — $1.3 billion— all paid for by the carbon cap-and-trade fee approved last session, also unprecedented for the state. But what’s missing from the budget is perhaps the most unusual of all. This year’s transportation budget does not include an increase in the state’s gas tax. Liz Giordano reports. (Crosscut)

No increased WA gas tax in ‘unprecedented’ $16.8B transportation budget

Kevin Grant named superintendent of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Kevin Grant, superintendent of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary/ photo: NOAA

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries announced the appointment of Kevin Grant of Port Angeles, Washington, as superintendent of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS). Kevin has been with NOAA for nearly 14 years as a deputy superintendent, with more than nine years at OCNMS and four years at National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa.

Kevin has a Masters Degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Wisconsin. He was a Knauss Sea Grant Fellow at the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and served two years in the Peace Corps in the Solomon Islands. Nearly all of his experience since leaving graduate school has involved collaboration in resource management with indigenous communities.

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, with offices in Port Angeles, Washington, is managed by NOAA and was designated in 1994. It encompasses nearly 3,200 square miles off the Washington coast, extending from Cape Flattery to the mouth of the Copalis River. Significant natural and cultural resources include 29 species of marine mammals, as well as large populations of nesting seabirds, shipwrecks, and some of the last remaining wilderness coastline in the lower 48 states.

The sanctuary is part of America’s National Marine Sanctuary System, a network of underwater areas encompassing more than 620,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters. The network includes a system of 15 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments. The National Marine Sanctuary System is celebrating its 50 year anniversary in 2022.

Urgent Action: Help appoint Lorna Smith to Fish & Wildlife Commission today

Port Townsend resident Lorna Smith was appointed to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission By Governor Jay Inslee in January of 2021. I’ve known Lorna for many decades, since she helped Eleanor Stopps & Zella Schultz’s efforts to make Protection Island a National Wildlife Refuge. Lorna is an ecologist who served as Snohomish County’s highest level environmental supervisor for 20 years overseeing NEPA, SEPA and ESA implementation for salmon and other listed species and has been a volunteer for many conservation groups and activities here on the Olympic Peninsula (Olympic Forest Coalition, Jefferson Land Trust, Jefferson County Conservation Futures Committee and Jefferson Planning Commission) and state-wide. She has served on many Department of Fish and Wildlife advisory groups. 

She is the only Fish and Wildlife Commissioner from the Olympic Peninsula and the Commission member with the strongest conservation credentials.A Senate confirmation hearing (in Committee) is scheduled for this Thursday, February 24th, 1:30 PM before the Senate Ag and Natural Resources Committee chaired by Senator Van De Wege, who represents the Peninsula and parts of Grays Harbor County.  Lorna Smith deserves and needs  support to continue critical environmental work  on behalf of Washington’s fish, wildlife and habitats.

Today contact Senator Van De Wege and urge that he support her confirmation as a strong conservation candidate and the Peninsula’s own representative to the Commission. Only the Senators on the Committee will be providing testimony, but you can register your comment about Lorna specifically through the following link:  https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/bill/9250

Or via direct email to the following:
Senator Van De Wege email:  Kevin.vandewege@leg.wa.gov
Cc: other key committee members and committee staff:

derek.stanford@leg.wa.gov

christine.rolfes@leg.wa.gov

jesse.salomon@leg.wa.govKaren.epps@leg.wa.gov (staff)

Banning toxic chemicals in cosmetics moves forward in WA – Crosscut

Good news as this continues forward.


A measure advancing in Washington’s Legislature would ban the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in cosmetics. These chemicals are often used to make beauty products — such as mascara, foundation, and lipstick — water-resistant and longer lasting. Melissa Santos reports. (Crosscut)

hemicals in cosmetics moves forward in WA 

Governor Jay Inslee Fills All Vacant Seats on Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission

This just in from Washington Wildlife First. I am using this press release and not the Governor’s because this does a good job of putting the nominations in perspective.



New Appointees Will Bring Impressive Scientific and Legal Credentials to the Commission

Washington Wildlife First commends Governor Jay Inslee for making three new
appointments to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

These appointments will finally fill all of the vacant and expired seats on the Commission, some
of which have stood open for more than a year. Washington Wildlife First has long advocated for
Governor Inslee to fill these seats , including through a December 17, 2021 letter joined by 2 9 other
fish, wildlife, and environmental organizations, which asked the Governor to immediately appoint
Commissioners who “ understand and value science, who support [the Governor’s] agenda to conserve and protect our environment, and who will focus on bringing critically needed reforms to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.”


“We applaud Governor Inslee for finally bringing the Commission back up to full strength, and for selecting three qualified candidates with substantial expertise in fish and wildlife management,” said Samantha Bruegger, executive director of Washington Wildlife First.

The three new Commissioners have varied backgrounds, but each has a long track record of working with issues of fish and wildlife management:

Dr. John Lehmkuhl from Chelan County will fill the eastern Washington position that has been vacant for over a year. Dr. Lehmkuhl is a lifelong hunter and angler and a retired research biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, who has spent 25 years working with Washington wildlife. He has a Ph.D. in forest science and an M.S. in wildlife ecology.
Melanie Rowland from Okanogan County will fill the at-large seat vacated by Commissioner Fred Koontz in December. Ms. Rowland is a retired environmental attorney, who spent 15 years as a senior attorney for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, working on issues related to fisheries, marine mammals, and endangered species.
Dr. Tim Ragen from Skagit County will fill the seat currently held by Larry Carpenter, whose appointment expired on October 31, 2020. Dr. Ragen is the retired director of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission. He has a Ph.D., in oceanography, and since his retirement has continued his work to conserve endangered marine species, including southern resident killer whales.

“We welcome the fresh perspective and deep base of knowledge that these new Commissioners
will bring to their positions,” Bruegger said. “With the current challenges facing the Department,
they will have their work cut out for them.”

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been plagued by scandal over the past year,
including, most recently:
• An unprecedented public attack by Commissioner Kim Thorburn on research that the
Department’s preeminent team of carnivore biologists published on state cougar densities.
Thorburn’s voiced her critique in a letter published in a wildlife journal this month, putting
the researchers in the uncomfortable position of having to publicly rebuke the
Commissioner for her inaccurate statements and poor understanding of scientific concepts.
• The resignation of Commissioner Fred Koontz in December, who left after he was targeted
by extremist groups and his own colleagues, including Commissioner Thorburn.
Commissioner Koontz’s resignation letter described a Commission that has “largely lost
the ability to have civil public conversations.”
• A devastating 2021 report by the state auditor, revealing a Department in which unethical
and illegal activity is common, bullying and discrimination are rampant, supervisors are
not held accountable, management frequently makes political decisions that ignore
science, and leadership retaliates against employees who report wrongdoing.
• Recent poaching charges filed against one of the Department’s regional directors, who
admitted to the charge, but remains in office without any disciplinary action.


“We hope these three new appointees will bring much needed dignity, decorum, and integrity to
the Commission, along with a commitment to Department reform,” Bruegger said. “For too long,
many of the Department’s dedicated biologists, enforcement officers, and other employees have
struggled to do their jobs under intolerable conditions. This situation must be corrected
immediately, not only for the sake of those employees, but for our state’s fish and wildlife.”

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.

WA Legislators prepare for long list of climate change bills – Crosscut and others

As we start the 2022 legislative session, there’s a lot of new bills to follow.

Lawmakers could look at more than a dozen climate proposals addressing carbon reduction and other environmental issues

https://crosscut.com/politics/2022/01/wa-legislators-prepare-long-list-climate-change-bills

Also there is a parallel and somewhat overlapping set of bills followed by the Environmental Environmental Priorities Coalition. They are a coalition of over twenty leading environmental groups who lobby in Olympia on a regular basis and organize around a set of priority bills each legislative session.  They established four to be their highest priorities for the 2022 Legislative Session, they are listed below.  As in the past, they will be sending out a weekly “Hot List” to assist in your efforts to promote this common agenda.

The key priorities for the environmental caucus, as defined by the Washington Environmental Council and other allies:

2022 Priorities

Lorraine Loomis Act for Salmon Recovery (SB 5727 / HB 1838): Across the state, salmon are on the brink of extinction. Some Puget Sound salmon species have declined by 90% compared to historical populations. In the Columbia River basin, returns are as little as 2% of historical levels. The Governor is proposing habitat legislation as a tribute to Lorraine Loomis (Swinomish Tribe, and Chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission) longtime champion for the salmon. The Act requires tree buffers tall and wide enough to shade rivers and streams. The Act also requires shifting to a standard of improving ecological conditions rather than habitat loss mitigation.

Transportation for All: We need to fund a transportation system that reduces pollution and can support a range of transportation solutions including improving multimodal transportation choices, such as biking, driving, and public transit. Transportation dollars must be used in ways that deliver the best investments possible to help build a more efficient, affordable, and clean transportation system for all.

GMA Sprawl Loophole (SB 5042): The current sprawl loophole undermines the intent of the Growth Management Act (GMA) by allowing counties to subvert the Growth Management Hearing Board (GMHB) appeals process to illegally build sprawling developments that devours farmlands, forests, and critical habitats. The loophole locks in outdated rules, and puts a financial strain on jurisdictions to provide adequate infrastructure, facilities, and services to new developments.

RENEW Act (SB 5697): All across Washington, plastic waste litters Washington’s shorelines and waterways, filling landfills to capacity, and harming wildlife. Our recycling system needs to be modernized so packaging can actually be recycled, composted, or reused. The Renew Recycling Act addresses this waste by creating a set of graduated fees on packaging manufacturers based on how readily reusable, compostable, or recyclable their products are. These fees will be used to fund improvements in infrastructure, uniform access for residents across the state, and a clear list of what people can recycle. This bill will have the added benefit of shifting recycling costs away from ratepayers and onto the manufacturers.

The Puget Sound Partnership Agenda

Buy Clean & Buy Fair (HB 1103 / SB 5366): Washington has an important role to play through investing in locally sourced materials, manufactured in facilities with high labor standards and minor environmental impact. The policy creates a reporting system with vital information on the environmental and labor impacts of structural materials used in state-funded infrastructure projects. During the 2021 session, the legislature funded the creation of a publicly accessible database to enable reporting and promote transparency. Passing Buy Clean and Buy Fair legislation sends a clear market signal of the growing demand for ethically-made low-carbon goods. (Partner: Blue Green Alliance)

Energy for All (HB 1490): Secure access to energy is crucial to keeping Washington residents healthy, safe, learning, working, and thriving, and will facilitate a Just Transition to clean energy. The Governor and Utilities and Transportation Commission moratoriums on shut-offs helped sustain residential energy service in Washington and protected the public. But these protections are temporary and utilities are already seeking to collect on debt. This legislation establishes access to home energy as a basic need and an essential resource that should be accessed in full dignity without uncertainty about affordability and threats of disconnection. (Partner: Front & Centered)

Also, you can track environmental bills here:

and here:

Event: WA DOE air monitoring listening session on Jan 20th- Sign up now.

There is an upcoming listening session that the Washington State Department of Ecology is holding. As part of the recently passed “Climate Commitment Act,” Ecology is looking to promote environmental justice and equity. One way we are looking to do this is by expanding air quality monitoring in overburdened communities. There will be two steps in this process:

1)      Identifying a set of overburdened communities.

2)      Installing new air quality monitors in those communities.

Ecology will be holding a listening session to hear from communities on January 20th starting at 6 PM. More information regarding this listening session and a link to register can be found here:https://ecology.wa.gov/Blog/Posts/December-2021/Clearer-skies-ahead.

You can read up more about the Climate Commitment Act here (there is a short discussion on the environmental justice piece): https://ecology.wa.gov/Air-Climate/Climate-change/Reducing-greenhouse-gases/Climate-Commitment-Act.

Please forward along to anyone who may have interest.

Shingo Yamazaki

Washington State Department of Ecology

Solid Waste Management Program, Industrial Section

PO Box 47600

Olympia, Washington 98504

syam461@ECY.WA.GOV

Congress Authorizes PFAS Testing at Military Facilities Throughout US -Whidbey Naval Base Included- MartenLaw.com

This has been an known ongoing issue with the Navy base, poisoning water supplies on Whidbey Island. The $500 million should help identify where this is happening and what can be done about it. The hidden costs of our “sound of freedom” as some promoters of the base would like to call it, creates poisoned ecosystems, ear splitting noise even inside insulated classrooms for children, and many other costs. Another sound of freedom is also the roll call in Congress to fund this activity.



By Jonah Brown

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (“FY22 NDAA”),
signed by the President on December 27, 2021, directs the Department of
Defense (“DoD”) to test for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (also
known as “PFAS”) at military sites throughout the country. A map of
formerly used defense sites can be found here: Former Sites
https://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental/Formerly-Used-Defense-Sites/FUDS-GIS/.
A map of current military installations can be found here: Active Sites
https://militarybases.com/. DoD must begin its assessment with a report to
Congress on the status of 50 priority current and former sites within 60 days
of the effective date, meaning the end of February. A map showing the
locations of these sites can be viewed at the end of this article.

Groundwater contamination from use of PFAS-containing aqueous film-forming
foam (“AFFF”) has already been discovered at hundreds of current and
former DoD facilities, including military airports, National Guard bases, and
installations controlled by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The
FY22 NDAA provides $500 million in funding to DoD to fulfill Congress’
direction to test for PFAS.
Read More

https://www.martenlaw.com/news-and-insights/congress-authorizes-pfas-testing-at-military-facilities-throughout-us

Event: 2022 Environmental Lobby Day

WHEN: January 25th, 26th and 27th

WHERE: ONLINE

https://www.facebook.com/events/223059966492649/?active_tab=discussion

Join the 350 WA Network, Our Climate, Re-Sources, Climate Reality Project, Environmental Priorities Coalition and hundreds of activists to push for key environmental health and justice legislation in 2022. During lobby days, you will team up with other activists from your district to speak up for the environmental health and justice and gain the skills to be a persuasive constituent. You’ll have the opportunity to attend online issue briefings, learn how to lobby, hear from environmental champions, and meet virtually with your elected officials to advance important environmental legislation. Stay tuned for more details and pre-register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/…/tZItce…
Email kat@wcvoters.org with questions

2022 Puget Sound Budget

The Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) has released an initial budget for Puget Sound Restoration projects in 2022. These are the prioritized projects in total that will get funding from the PSP. There are a number of projects underway or awaiting funding to address dozens of root causes of the shape of the Sound. Habitat restoration, removing culverts, restoring streams, toxic reductions, monitoring projects, hatchery enhancements, helping farmers better farm for sustainability, education to foster better decisions by the public, the list is huge. When critics discuss restoring Puget Sound, they often look at the issue from only one lens (i.e. hatchery funding, etc.). This budget is looking at the 360 degree view of all that is currently on the table for restoration projects.


Each year, the Puget Sound Partnership develops a prioritized list of state agency budget requests related to Puget Sound recovery. The Partnership shares this list with the Office of Financial Management, relevant legislative committee members and staff, and our partners. As the Governor and legislators release their respective budget proposals, the Partnership updates information about the Puget Sound Budget to reflect the most recent information.

https://psp.wa.gov/puget-sound-budget.php
To interact with this chart, go to https://psp.wa.gov/puget-sound-budget.php

Groups Again Sue Army Corps to Protect Washington’s Coastal Areas and Endangered Species from Industrial Shellfish Operations

Back to the battle lines in the courthouse to make the Army Corps. of Engineers live up to the law. They were found guilty of not doing diligence in the last year, and yet they reissued the same permits in the last days of the Trump administration with no changes by sending out “Letters of Permission” to get around the ruling. A truly cynical move. What can you do about this? Donate to either CFS or the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. From the press release today:


SEATTLE—Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from continuing the excessive expansion of industrial shellfish operations without considering the cumulative impacts to Washington’s rich and diverse coastal waters. Industrial shellfish operations adversely affect Washington’s shorelines and estuaries by destroying critical habitat for numerous species, including endangered and threatened salmon and killer whales. These operations harm Washington’s aquatic and nearshore areas by increasing plastic netting and debris, micro-plastics, pesticides, and disturbances in the environment. 

“Despite clear statutory mandates and a previous court decision requiring the government to fully consider the potential impacts of proposed shellfish operations, the Corps continues to ignore its duties by allowing industrial shellfish operations to degrade important aquatic habitats, including through the use of plastics and pesticides, endangering Washington’s shorelines, biodiversity, and surrounding communities,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at CFS.

In the complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, plaintiffs argue that the nationwide permit (NWP 48 of 2021) authorizing commercial shellfish operations in Washington violates several federal environmental protection laws, including the Clean Water Act (CWA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act, and Administrative Procedure Act. The complaint also challenges the Corps’ unlawful use of “Letters of Permission” (LOP) to approve industrial shellfish operations without public notice or comment and without considering their overall cumulative impacts. 

The new lawsuit comes on the heels of a previous lawsuit against the Corps, where CFS and allies successfully sued the Trump administration for issuing a similar nationwide permit (NWP 48 of 2017). The court found the previous 2017 permit unlawful under CWA and NEPA, stating that the Corps had failed to adequately consider the impacts on Washington’s shorelines and wildlife habitat, including the cumulative effects of expanding or continuing operations in sensitive areas. In a victory for plaintiffs, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently affirmed the lower court’s decision. 

In January 2021, during the last few days of the Trump administration, the Corps finalized the new nationwide permit for commercial shellfish aquaculture activities. In rushing to issue the permit, the Corps ignored comments from plaintiffs and stakeholders urging the agency to fix problems with its impact analysis before issuing the new permit. For example, neither the 2017 permit nor the 2021 reissuance include any restrictions on pesticide or plastic use. Much like the unlawful 2017 permit, the 2021 permit authorizes commercial shellfish aquaculture activities in Washington without full consideration of the potential adverse effects to aquatic ecosystems and wildlife, prompting CFS and allies to launch another lawsuit to vacate the permit.

“The Coalition is outraged that the Corps would try to avoid doing what is necessary as a bare minimum under the law to protect orcas, salmon, and marine life in Washington from the toxic and physical impacts of the massive number of industrial-scale aquaculture operations that have been proposed,” said Laura Hendricks, director of the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. “This is precisely the sort of agency action that gives ‘government’ a bad name.”
 

The Corps has already relied on the 2021 NWP 48 to approve thousands of acres of industrial shellfish activities in Washington’s coastal areas, and the LOPs to approve thousands more without public input. Many of the acres authorized for shellfish aquaculture are located near critical spawning, breeding, and feeding habitats for forage fish, threatened and endangered species of salmon and green sturgeon, birds, whales, and other wildlife species. Additionally, operations authorized under the new permit destroy eelgrass and other aquatic plants that provide habitat to wildlife and other essential ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, sediment stabilization, and nutrient balancing, which help mitigate the effects of climate change. 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are CFS and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound. CFS is represented by counsel from CFS and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound is represented by the Law Office of Karl G. Anuta and Law Office of Mike Sargetakis.

Thirty environmental leaders urge Inslee to fill vacant seats on Fish & Wildlife Commission.

In a startling development, 30 key leaders of environmental organizations around the state have sent a letter urging Governor Jay Inslee to fill the vacant seats on the fish and wildlife commission with commissioners who will emphasize conservation science and reform.

The commission has been in turmoil for the last year partially because Governor Inslee has not filled 2 vacancies on it. He has left a 3 to 3 tie with commissioners who support extreme hunting ideas not based in peer reviewed science unwilling to compromise whatsoever with more moderate commissioners who had to seek independent science because they could not trust the data that was presented in key meetings with WDFW staff. It turned out their concerns were well founded.

Just this week one of the wildlife commissioners, Fred Koontz, resigned saying that the commission was “stuck in a political quagmire”. The dysfunction in this Commission mirrors a recent state audit that found that the Department of Fish and Wildlife itself is in in a state of crisis, with management bullying “rampant” and unethical behavior normalized. The Commission is supposed to be supervising this department. If ever there was time for a top to bottom overhaul of the Department, it is now.

This state of affairs is one of the Governor’s own making, since there have been two vacancies unfilled for the last year that he could’ve easily have filled with people who want to support science and the environmental goals that he has stated he supports for his entire career. Why has he not done that?

The mess is detailed in the letter below. In decades spent covering environmental issues I have never seen anything like the current situation at WDFW. It needs attention by the Governor now.

EPA announces $34 million in Puget Sound funding

Really good news for the continued restoration of our waters. We are in for a long haul to get to a clean Sound. It’s taken 100+ years of destruction of our ecosystems. If it’s possible at all it will take another 100 to finish the job. Failure is not an option.

The National Estuary Program provides funds for state, local, tribal, and federal projects.


December 16, 2021 Contact Information Bill Dunbar (dunbar.bill@epa.gov) 206-553-1019 Suzanne Skadowski (skadowski.suzanne@epa.gov) 206-553-2160

SEATTLE (December 16, 2021) – The Northwest office of the Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it is providing over $34 million in grant funds to state, local, tribal, and federal partners for Puget Sound recovery and conservation efforts.

“Puget Sound is a national treasure with profound economic and cultural significance,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “These funds help build stronger partnerships and deliver results that are much-needed fuel for recovery of Puget Sound and the communities that depend on it. In addition to these grant funds, the $89 million slated for Puget Sound in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will accelerate this progress to secure tangible, concrete protections that will benefit local communities for generations.” 

These National Estuary Program funds support development and implementation of the Puget Sound Action Agenda – the five-year strategy for Puget Sound recovery – and work to meet tribal trust responsibilities and treaty obligations. These grants fund a diversity of work spanning from habitat protection, to finding and fixing sources of pollution, to cutting edge stormwater research, to tribal salmon restoration projects.

Recipients include three tribal consortia, 19 federally recognized tribes, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Washington’s Department of Ecology, Department of Health, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Commerce, the Puget Sound Partnership, Washington State University’s Stormwater Center, and the University of Washington’s Puget Sound Institute.

Since 2006, Congress has appropriated $419 million in Clean Water Act and geographic program funds for Puget Sound that EPA has used to help restore more than 50,000 acres of habitat and protect in excess of 150,000 acres of harvestable shellfish beds. These federal funds have leveraged nearly $2.1 billion of additional funds largely from the state of Washington.

In addition to grants, EPA experts partner with and provide their scientific and policy expertise to local, state, and tribal governments, industry and NGOs are involved in scientific research and restoration projects throughout the Puget Sound basin. The EPA Puget Sound Program also co-leads the Puget Sound Federal Task Force that works to coordinate federal programs and resources to support Puget Sound Recovery. To learn more about this inter-agency effort, see the recently posted November 2021 Progress Report.

NWIFC Tribes Urge Legislature to Pass Lorraine Loomis Act Protecting Riparian Habitat

The proposed act follows the recommendations of a state-tribal workgroup created after the 2019 Centennial Accord meeting when Inslee directed state agencies to develop a uniform, science-based management approach to make sure salmon have the cool, clean water they need to survive.

https://nwtreatytribes.org/nwifc-tribes-urge-legislature-to-pass-lorraine-loomis-act-protecting-riparian


The Governor’s Proposal for Salmon Recovery is here:

Washington wildlife commissioner resigns, citing ‘politicized quagmire’ – Seattle Times and others

Fred Koontz, Ph.D. (photo by WDFW)

The ongoing feud between hunters and environmentalists continues to play out in the State Wildlife Commission. Wildlife Commissioner Dr. Fred Koontz has resigned due to the ugly nature of the debates and the inability to find common ground with the hunting coalition on the commission. Dr. Koontz was more interested in ensuring that decisions were made by looking at the science. He comes from more of a scientist/educator and may have underestimated the political nature of the position and the anger that is boiling over a perceived anti-hunting point of view. Why is this story important? Because the Wildlife Commission handles a wide range of issues:

The Commission establishes policies to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife, and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities compatible with healthy and diverse fish and wildlife populations.

From the WDFW website: https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/commission

The Commission in years gone by, was a stalwart sports hunting and fishing enclave, with a strong bent towards maximizing hunting and fishing and the licensing revenues it brings to State coffers. But the rise of endangered species and the growing scientific awareness of the many options in managing wild stocks, along with a declining amount of hunters and rising number of environmentally protective citizenry has changed the landscape. Those days of blanket support for sportsmen & women are tempered by new opinions that are not ready to simply rubber stamp the needs of sports over scientific baselines. An example is that recent science presented by pro bear hunt biologists in WDFW during the decision process were countered by independent research that Commissioner Koontz and other commissioners brought to the discussion. Their numbers were drastically different than state bear management staff, who claimed that they stood behind their numbers 100%. The lack of scientific agreement led to the latest impasse on opening the bear hunting season, which normally targets many sows with their cubs as they come out of hibernation. The science behind the number of sows and their lactating state at the time of their killing, caused a rift between the two groups on the Commission.

Koontz resigned saying:

“I accepted your appointment with the understanding that I would participate in the Commission’s supervising authority and policy-making to oversee the Fish & Wildlife Department’s actions. Unfortunately, I found that I had no meaningful role in protecting the public’s wildlife trust. The Commission is currently stuck in a politicized quagmire. We have largely lost the ability to have civil public conversations.”

Fred Koontz Resignation letter

I talked to another commissioner, Lorna Smith, who is from Jefferson County, about Fred’s resignation:

I’m very saddened over Fred’s departure. His voice of scientific reason was well appreciated. His ability to bring independent science to the discussions was always welcome . I have hope and confidence that the governor will realize that this impasse is not beneficial to Washington’s wildlife or it’s residents and will appoint commissioners quickly to the three open positions to help carry out his conservation goals.

Commissioner Lorna Smith

Commissioner Smith went on to urge people who care about the issue to contact the governor and urge him to see that the next appointment to the commission are made quickly have a broad conservation values.

Read one version of the story at the Seattle Times.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/washington-wildlife-commissioner-resigns-citing-politicized-quagmire/


Also, a well written short piece in an online magazine devoted to hunting detailed some of the issues in more depth from their perspective:

https://freerangeamerican.us/washington-wildlife-commish-resigns/

The PDN reporter Michael Carmen also covered the appointment of Koontz and Smith in the Peninsula Daily News in January 2021. I referenced it in this blog. Here’s the link, but the story is behind a paywall. https://www.peninsuladailynews.com/sports/conservation-common-thread-for-new-members-of-washington-state-fish-and-wildlife-commission/


The Official Press Release from WDFW:

OLYMPIA – Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Fred Koontz, Ph.D. sent a letter today to Gov. Jay Inslee resigning from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. Dr. Koontz resides in King County and occupied an “at-large” position of the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Dr. Koontz was appointed on Jan. 5, 2021 by Gov. Inslee to a six-year term that was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2026.

“We appreciate Fred’s engagement and curious mind on the Commission,” said Fish and Wildlife Commission Chair Larry Carpenter. “He encouraged us to be bold in our mission and we enjoyed his passion for biodiversity conservation.”

The Commission is comprised of nine commissioners, including three members from west of the Cascade Mountains, three members from east of the Cascade Mountains, and three “at-large” members who may reside anywhere in the state. No two Commission members may reside in the same county.

There are now two vacancies on the Commission. Gov. Inslee will need to appoint an “at-large” position and an Eastern Washington position. (Fred’s resignation makes that three vacancies)

Commission appointees are subject to confirmation by the state Senate, which will reconvene in January 2022. However, members are official upon appointment and serve as voting members on the Commission while awaiting Senate confirmation.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is a panel appointed by the governor that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). WDFW works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities. 

Jay Inslee & WA lawmakers propose electric vehicle rebates and other climate initiatives ahead of legislative session – Seattle Times

Good news on the state wide climate legislation front. Beyond helping finance electric bikes and cars for couple under $500k in income and $250k for singles, the legislation would provide economic pathways towards installing solar panels for a variety of state, local, tribal and NGOs.

Governor Inslee at COP26 (photo by Governor’s Press Office)

There has been some confusion about whether or not the state has *forced* the ending of natural gas heat in new construction. This legislation would give incentives for ending natural gas use, and proposes to end it’s use by 2034. Previous legislation to end natural gas use by 2030 died in committee last session. Nothing is certain at this point, as this is just a proposal and if readers are being told differently, I would love to see the source of that information. I have been unable to find anything saying differently, even on right wing news outlets.

“The amount of carbon emissions that we will have to reduce to meet that legally binding commitment is equivalent to the emissions of taking 1.3 million vehicles off the road,” said the governor. “We have some real work to do starting today.”

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/jay-inslee-washington-lawmakers-propose-electric-vehicle-rebates-and-other-climate-initiatives-ahead-of-legislative-session/

%d bloggers like this: