February 11, 2011

Trio of WFSE/AFSCME Natural Resources members join chorus of boos for consolidation plan

A trio of Federation members from natural resource agencies joined an almost unanimous opposition Thursday to plans to merger the agencies.

SB 5669 would merge Fish and Wildlife, Parks, the Recreation and Conservation Office and Natural Resources law enforcement and Heritage Programs into a new super-agency, the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The bill came before the Senate Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee.

Tim Young, a Fish and Wildlife member in Olympia (Local 443) told the panel that Federation members in the affected agencies “don’t support the merger and feel there are other issues to deal with beforehand.” When surveyed, those members said the agencies should reduce management levels, streamline business practices and reconcile or revise conflicting laws, Young said.

Brian Yearout, president of Statewide Parks Local 1466, said the “move to a super-agency, we believe, is not the way to go.”

“On the merger of Parks into the new agency, we think that could hasten the decline of most if not all state parks,” he added. “Merging will not replace the state general funds the governor proposes cutting to make parks self-funded and self-sustaining. This is a parks problem and we believe the current independent Parks Commission needs to remain to fight for those funds and save state parks, our crown jewels.”

Mark James, president of Statewide Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Officers Local 881, said merger would spread enforcement too thin. He said a department survey found it needed about 100 more officers devoted to fish and wildlife enforcement and merger would bring “dilution” of that already strapped mission, James said.

“We need to be able to focus on things that we don’t have the people to do,” he said. “And I’m just asking that you don’t dilute our mission and let us enforce the state laws that we’re here to do (and) protect our fish and wildlife.”

Committee Chair Sen. Kevin Ranker of the 40th District said SB 5669 is a “work in progress” and a new bill will be drafted after a meeting with stakeholders next week.

  • Fish Hatcheries Local 2964 member Bryan Quinton testified in favor of SB 5385 to increase revenue to the State Wildlife Account by changing fees for hunting and fishing licenses and moving all recreational hunting and fishing license revenue to the state General Fund. It would also allow the Wildlife Account to retain interest from the account. The bill came up Thursday before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
  • And Federation Lobbyist Matt Zuvich spoke in favor of the Senate version of the Corrections binding arbitration bill, SB 5368, which had a hearing Thursday in the Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee.

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