Senate budget protects hatcheries, begins Fish and Wildlife turnaround

The release of the Senate budget proposal today marks the beginning of a positive turnaround of the troubled Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The budget provides safeguards for crucial agency functions, such as hatcheries, while initiating the rebuilding of an agency in crisis.

Agency management recently revealed to legislative leaders a significant budget shortfall. Because of this, a major hunting and fishing license fee increase plan was proposed by WDFW to increase agency revenue.

“The agency wanted to correct this by initiating a hefty increase in hunting and fishing license fees without the promise for more opportunities,” said Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

Pearson received hundreds of letter in opposition to WDFW’s fee increase proposal from across the state.

“The problem is not a money problem, it’s a leadership problem,” said Pearson.

The Senate budget provides $5 million from the general fund to protect hatcheries and core agency functions while bringing in outside performance and management support.

“It’s important that we provide stability to the agency while we begin a much-needed overhaul that will help protect and grow the state’s hunting and fishing opportunities,” said Pearson. “This budget keeps the core of the agency in place while we correct the past problems that placed the agency in this situation and help them get on stronger footing.”

The budget proposal also provides funding for an outside consultant to identify and fix management and organizational issues while running a zero-based budget exercise to address ongoing budget issues.

“This budget for WDFW reflects the needs of an agency in crisis,” said Pearson. “Dwindling fish populations, diseased and scattered wildlife and animal conflict problems have set back the WDFW’s mission over the past few years. By giving them the tools they need to be successful, we can protect and grow hunting and fishing opportunities both now and in the future.”