Kretz insulted by ‘arrogant’ attitude of fish and wildlife officials

 

'Public hearing was proof the Department of Fish and Wildlife is out of touch with rural Washingtonians,' says Kretz

In a public hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 12, Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, was appalled by the attitude of state wildlife official, Steve Pozzanghera, when discussing bills to curb the trend of massive land purchases in the 7th Legislative District.

The committee heard two of Kretz' bills to help end the mismanagement of noxious weeds on state land, which are spreading to private property (HB 2446), and to require the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to work with local governments to seek approval of land purchases (HB 2485). Both bills were opposed by the DFW and The Nature Conservancy.

“The public hearing was proof the Department of Fish and Wildlife is out of touch with rural Washingtonians,” said Kretz, who serves on the agriculture and natural resources committee. “The Seventh District has enough land 'conserved' for wildlife, fishing, hunting and recreation. I wish the department would start buying land in King County the way it has been scooping up property for state lands in Okanogan and elsewhere in our district.”

He noted that 69 percent of state land acquisitions by the DFW last year were in Okanogan County.

“One county cannot take this type of hit,” said Kretz. “How much is enough? Our rural communities are struggling under a depressed economy and the department seems content to scoop up land, taking it off the tax rolls, which hurts local governments, cuts critical services and runs agriculturists out of the county. To top it off, wildlife officials put words in local county commissioners' mouths when none of them were there to dispute what was being said about their support or rejection of the proposals.”

Kretz feels DFW has an attitude that rural property owners should feel lucky their land is being taken care of by state government. But, he noted, the reason fish and wildlife continues to buy up land in the district is because farmers, ranchers and orchardists keep it pristine.

At one point in the hearing, Kretz told DFW he was insulted by the notion that bureaucrats think they know what's best for the 7th District. To make matters worse, he said, Steve Pozzanghera is likely going to be appointed as the Region 1 director of DFW, which includes all of Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Lincoln, Spokane, Garfield, Whitman, Walla Walla, Columbia and Asotin counties along with part of Okanogan County.

“The department bragged in the hearing that it received $243,000 for land management in the 2009 budget and the governor's proposed 2010 budget includes an additional $264,000. This land management funding is in addition to the $50 to $70 million the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program receives in the budget to purchase land. All the while, the governor is complaining that the budget is 'unjust,'” Kretz said. “I would suggest the DFW budget is unfair and unjust for the citizens of the Seventh District. If this plan of buying up land is so great, why not share the love in King and Pierce counties?”

Pozzanghera contacted Kretz via e-mail asking to schedule a meeting where they, “dress up in jeans and flannel shirts” to discuss things that were said in the Jan. 12 hearing.

“I'm tired of DFW's arrogance. I'm tired of them talking down to rural people,” Kretz fumed. “For him to suggest we dress up in jeans and flannel shirts to discuss the insulting business that took place is, on its own, insulting! Most rural people are perfectly able to carry on an intelligent discussion regardless of apparel. Besides, flannel is so 'out' in Wauconda this year.”

The Nature Conservancy also testified against Kretz' bills. The group, he said, speaks in code words and phrases they think rural folks are too stupid to catch. One code phrase Kretz noticed alluded to moving forward with a “wildlife corridor” through the district, which sounded eerily familiar to the Yukon to Yellowstone (Y2Y) legislation introduced the past several years.

“There are a number of DFW personnel and environmental advocates who have a consistent record of arrogant and insulting comments directed at rural residents, and the officials they elect to represent them. Their message seems to be 'we are smart, you are stupid and ignorant, and we know what's best for you.'  Folks, I've had enough,” Kretz said. “Every two years, more than 120,000 people have the option to keep me in office, or show me the door. I refuse to have unelected government employees and environmentalists tell me what's good for the people of my district when I know what folks want because they are not shy about speaking their minds. My job is to listen to residents in the district – DFW would do itself a favor by doing the same thing.”

Wildlife officials like Pozzanghera should move to Colville and run for office, Kretz suggested, if they think their policies are so popular in the 7th District.

“I don't mind a discussion, and I'm always game for a healthy debate of ideas, on which we can respectfully disagree. But the words, tone and arrogance displayed by the DFW and The Nature Conservancy during this hearing was unbelievable,” Kretz said. “It was a glimpse of what they really think of rural citizens.”

Kretz said he's not backing down on this issue of turning the entire 7th District into, as former governor Mike Lowry called it, a “playground” for the Western Washington elite.

“Enough is enough. I am not going to stand by and have the citizens of the Seventh District, or any other rural part of the state, treated like they are not worth respecting,” Kretz explained. “I hope the folks in the district rise up as well to share their thoughts with the Fish and Wildlife Commission.”

The Fish and Wildlife Commission can be reached at (360) 902-2267 or commission@dfw.wa.gov. Constituents can also contact Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson at (360) 902-2200 or director@dfw.wa.gov.

Here is a video clip of the exchange on House Bill 2485:

The entire hearing can be watched by clicking here.

This document is a transcript of the last half hour of the hearing:

1-12-10 Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Hearing transcript.pdf

A resolution by the Okanogan County Commissioners on the issue of local government feedback on DFW land acquisitions can be read here:

Acquisitions Resolution WDFW 0409.pdf

For more information, contact Bobbi Cussins, Public Information Officer: (360) 786-7252

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov