Long Delay in Confirmation of Washington Wildlife Commissioners Political, Committee Chair Says


Washington's appointed wildlife commissioners are one step closer to confirmation before the state senate, a step that, while required by law, has not been taken since 2018.

That long delay has been critiqued, with one hunting and angling group this month accusing the state of running a "cabal."

While the delay was  political, said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, it hardly amounted to the actions of a cabal. The Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks committee chair pointed out that commissioners still serve without senate confirmation, noting that he doesn't "have some absolute power over this."

"Commissioners like to be confirmed. And I wasn't thrilled about doing any favors for the (Washington) Department (of Fish and Wildlife)," he said in an interview last week. "I wasn't necessarily looking to do any favors for them because they weren't necessarily helping out with my priorities."

In particular, De Wege disagrees with WDFW's salmon conservation strategy, which he believes allows too much harvest.

De Wege said the last time the commissioners were all confirmed was ahead of the hiring of WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. Hiring or firing the agency director is arguably the commission's most important job.

The tides have changed, however, with Gov. Jay Inslee appointing more "conservation-minded commissioners," he said.

"I made a commitment with the governor that I would try and get as many of his appointments confirmed," he said.

As part of that process, the  nine commissioners have all answered questions before the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks committee over the past weeks. Steve Parker, who represents Eastern Washington, spoke with the committee Thursday as the Northwest Sportsman Magazine reported.

As for theories that the delay had to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, "It was not about that whatsoever.

"There are a lot of politics on the commission right now. It's not a healthy environment."