Governor’s budget has mostly ups but one huge down for Washington’s wildlife

Governor’s budget has mostly ups but one huge down for Washington’s wildlife

Conservation Northwest / Dec 20, 2018 / Legislation, Restoring Wildlife, WDFW

UPDATE: Call on state legislators to fund Washington’s wildlife

Governor Jay Inslee has released his 2019-21 budget proposal, and it has big implications for Washington’s wildlife, outdoor heritage and quality of life.

“The Governor’s budget proposal is pretty good,” said Mitch Friedman, Conservation Northwest Executive Director. “It includes $32 million to fill the existing deficit at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), plus a number of the items requested for better service. It also includes more than $100 million for capital investment projects related to fish, wildlife and recreation, as well as a huge additional amount to help recover Southern Resident Killer Whales. We are thankful for all this.”

We’ve long worked to ensure our state’s full wildlife heritage is appropriately conserved and restored, both “game” and non-game species. Photo: Denja1 / iStock

“However, there is one glaring area where the Governor’s proposal fails terribly,” said Friedman. “WDFW had requested $12.9 million to enhance fish and wildlife conservation and $4.2 million for habitat improvements. But the Governor proposed only $1.3 million of the former and zero for the latter! We’re calling on state legislators to fill this gap and fully fund Washington’s wildlife heritage.”

For years the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hasn’t been given the resources it needs to fulfill its full mission to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational andcommercial opportunities.

While many millions of dollars go to items such as producing hatchery fish and managing fishing and hunting opportunities, it’s essential to understand that WDFW already spends less than 5 percent of its budget on important issues of concern for most Washingtonians: protecting habitat for threatened species, outdoor recreation and resolving conflicts with wildlife.

“The agency’s funding has declined even as its expenses have increased, as have the challenges to our state’s wildlife and natural resources,” said Friedman. “Today, a growing population, climate change and habitat loss impact everything from orcas and salmon to wolverines and elk. At the same time, more and more Washingtonians are hiking, birdwatching or enjoying our outdoor heritage in new ways. The Governor and legislature must allocate full funding for WDFW—for biodiversity and habitat in particular—to meet these needs and fulfil its vital mission.”

Each program graphic’s size corresponds to its relative portion of DFW’s overall expenditures. Graphic: WDFW

WDFW’s budget request included $31 million to fill the deficit that had grown from this underfunding. But backfilling alone isn’t enough. The Department must have the resources to excel at conserving fish and wildlife and providing quality outdoor opportunities for Washingtonians. As such, $30 million in additional appropriations were requested to better serve a variety of needs—from restoring habitat on state lands to increasing public access and developing online applications for hunters and anglers.

These requests were strongly supported by the department’s diverse stakeholder group, called the Budget and Policy Advisory Group (BPAG). And through Conservation Northwest’s action alert last month, hundreds of Washingtonians let Governor Inslee know we want the Evergreen State’s wildlife and biodiversity to be fully funded.

Conservation Northwest has long worked with WDFW to ensure our state’s full wildlife heritage is appropriately conserved and restored. This includes popular “game” species such as deer and elk, but just as importantly, rare and endangered wildlife like Canada lynx that help make our ecosystems whole and healthy, enliven our outdoor experiences and contribute to our Pacific Northwest quality of life.

“Arguably the biggest need for WDFW’s budget is to better balance it to be more in-line with the full breadth of the agency’s mission and the interests of all Washingtonians, while continuing to provide quality fishing, hunting and other opportunities,” said Friedman. “But instead of offering progress in this regard, Governor Inslee’s proposal funds everything but our biodiverse wildlife and their habitat—items already the most underfunded and in great public demand.”

Conservation Northwest and our allies will be letting the Governor know our feelings on this. But more importantly, we’ll be working with key legislators in the weeks and months ahead to ensure they’re well aware of the needs of our wildlife heritage as they draft their budget bills.

Stay tuned for action alerts and ways to engage during the legislative session. In the meantime, read up on this issue in this blog from Mitch: Evergreen State in the Red | WDFW Budget & Policy
Whether wildlife watchers or hunters, hikers or anglers, we all share a love for Washingtons wildlife heritage. Photo: Chase Gunnell