The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) last week submitted a $26 million supplemental funding request to the Governor’s Office. It marks the first step in a process to gain support from the governor and Legislature for the funding to continue current services, address emerging issues, and deal with a backlog of legislated and unavoidable cost increases during the upcoming session.

“Our work provides tremendous value to the people in our state,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “The ongoing funds to create a fully healthy agency is critical to our residents’ quality of life, critical to our ability to conserve fish and wildlife, and critical to maintaining sustainable natural resource jobs across Washington.”

The bulk of the funding request, $12.5 million, would help the agency address an ongoing structural deficit driven by legislated and unavoidable cost increases, such as the rising costs of wages, centralized state services, and utility increases.

“I’m pleased that last year we presented to the Legislature the results of a performance audit that showed we are good stewards of our financial resources,” Susewind said.

To help manage that situation, the department has already made $2 million in cuts to services, and is seeking $6.7 million in ongoing funds to maintain other current services. Without this funding, by June 2020 the department will need to make:

  • 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.

These public services were also at risk in the last budget cycle, when state legislators provided enough one-time funding for the department to continue this work for another year.

The department is also requesting an additional $6.8 million in new, ongoing funds to address seven emerging needs:

  • Salmon monitoring throughout Puget Sound to provide for fishing and conservation;
  • 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.

“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 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.”

The Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the department’s operating requests in August, plus a $22 million request in capital funding to reduce flooding risks and support hatchery work, including examining infrastructure needs to further increase salmon production for Southern Resident Killer Whales.

View more information on the department’s 2020 supplemental request online at:wdfw.wa.gov/2020supplemental.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities. 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. 

Persons with disabilities who need to receive this information in an alternative format or who need reasonable accommodations to participate in WDFW-sponsored public meetings or other activities may contact Dolores Noyes by phone (360-902-2349), TTY (360-902-2207), or email (dolore[email protected]). For more information, see https://wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/reasonable_request.html.