Hunting group is suing Gov. Inslee alleging biased committee appointments

LEWISTON – A Washington hunting and conservation group said this week it plans to sue Gov. Jay Inslee for failing to balance views on the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation charges that the governor, in selecting the commissioners to serve on the nine-member commission, did not follow the direction set forth in the Washington Code. The group said Inslee’s recent appointments to the committee have made decisions that harm hunters and some wildlife groups, favoring predators and anti-hunters.

“The committee is on solid grounds with environmental groups and animal rights groups,” said Mark Pidgeon, president of the organization, of Kent, Washington. “We on the fishing side here are grossly underrepresented.”

He said the committee lacks members who represent fishermen and other key constituents such as recreational fishers, commercial fishers and landowners.

In a post on her Facebook pageThe group alleges that Inslee has violated a state law that states that in selecting commissioners, governors must “endeavour to maintain a balance that reflects all aspects of fish and wildlife, including representation recommended by organized groups representing sport fishermen, commercial fishermen, fishermen, and landlords.” private land and environmental advocates.”

Inslee named two commissioners — Lorna Smith and Fred Koontz — in 2021. Koontz resigned in December 2021. Last year, Inslee named Melanie Rowland, of Twisp, Tim Ragen, of Anacortes, and John Lemkull, of Wenatchee.

The three new commissioners voted with Smith and Chief Commissioner Barbara Baker to end recreational black bear hunting during the spring. The process took about a year to complete and involved many emotional discussions between the commissioners, fish and wildlife officials, and members of the public.

Pidgeon said the majority of panelists showed little interest in helping the struggling Blue Mountain elk herd by extending mountain lion hunting seasons, even though observations by wildlife biologists indicate that few elk calves live to adulthood and that mountain lions account for A large part of the calf. death rate.

“You have to look at the science there and look at what is causing harm to the females of the herd and the newborns, and the problem is predation,” Begoun said.

The committee raised the mountain lion sack limit from one bag per year to two with Lehmkuhl, a hunter for life, as the swing vote.

Inslee spokesperson Jaime Smith said: “We are confident that our recruitment process endeavors to comply with all applicable laws.”

Pidgeon said he is trying to recruit other hunting groups to take part in the lawsuit, which has not yet been filed. He cited a similar legal challenge filed by the Building Industry Association of Washington and its Washington General Partners as reason for optimism.

The builders sued Inslee, alleging that he ignored code that required him to select at least two members of the Washington State Building Code Board from people recommended by the trade associations. Inslee and the builders settled the lawsuit in an agreement that required two of his council choices to resign.

Inslee is expected to make new appointments to the Fish and Wildlife Committee in the near future. Commissioner Don McKissack resigned from his position, and commissioners Barbara Baker, of Olympia, and Kim Thorburn, of Spokane, finished serving their first terms. Both are eligible for reassignment and most expect Inslee to tap Baker for another assignment. Thorburn, who clashed with Inslee, said she did not expect to be rehired.

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