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News / Sports / Outdoors

Legislation would alter fish, wildlife advisory group leadership

By TOM PAULU/Longview Daily News
Published: January 21, 2016, 9:53am
When the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife sets up a public work group on elk hoof rot or salmon fishing, someone who’s not a department employee should be in charge.
At least that’s what Rep. JD Rossetti, D-Longview, wants to see accomplished with a bill he has introduced in the Legislature.
The bill, HB 2446, would require any work group or task force that is intended to collect expertise and opinions from other state agencies or outside groups to be chaired by a non-WDFW employee.
Rossetti said his bill is in response to the WDFW public work group that has been meeting about hoof rot since 2013. The group is chaired by Sandra Jonker, regional wildlife manager for Southwest Washington, and includes Fish and Wildlife workers, county elected officials and interested citizens.
One group member is Mark Smith of Toutle, who is lobbying in favor of Rossetti’s bill. Having a WDFW employee in charge of such groups allows the agency “to control the direction, study and results of these groups (without) investigating or listening to the group at all,” Smith said in an email.
WDFW biologists and a task group of scientists from other agencies who advise them believe the hoof rot affecting elk is caused by the treponeme bacteria, which results in similar problems in domestic sheep and cattle. WDFW has even changed the name of the condition to “treponeme-associated hoof disease.”
But, as Rossetti pointed out, Dr. Boone Mora of Skamokawa, a retired public health official, believes that hoof rot is caused by leptospiroris, a disease common to humans and animals. Mora hasn’t been able to get a WDFW permit to test elk. “WDFW hasn’t done anything to accommodate live tests with (Mora),” Rossetti said.
Another theory advanced by some is that herbicide spraying is linked to hoof rot. WDFW scientists say there’s no evidence of this but Rossetti said, “We need to look at all these hypotheses and direct research to all of these possibilities. There needs to be citizen research. I think the citizens know the best. They’re the ones on the ground seeing these problems every day.”
Rossetti said he’s heard complaints about the leadership of other WDFW public work groups.
A group that’s been meeting about Willapa Bay salmon management has yet to come up with a comprehensive plan to create fishing opportunities for both sports and commercial fishermen, he said. Another working group is addressing the contentious wolf management issue in eastern Washington.
Rossetti has asked Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, to hold a hearing on the bill in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. As a former legislative aide to Blake, Rossetti attended meetings about hoof rot.
WDFW spokesman Craig Bartlett said department managers plan to meet with Rossetti later this week about the bill.
“We’re reserving comment on this legislation until we have a chance to talk with him about it,” Bartlett said.