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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Many of you might remember Gov. Jay Inslee's riparian buffer bill from the last legislative session. It mandated riparian buffers for improved fish habitat on just about all private land with rivers, streams and creeks. The buffer zones would have been up to 250 feet on both sides of the waterway with fines up to $10,000 per day for noncompliance.
His proposal took much of the agricultural and ranching community by surprise and would have devastated both industries. With the swipe of a pen, tens of thousands of acres of private land would have lost untold value and been left unusable. You can read a great column on this issue from Sue Lani Madsen of The Spokesman-Review here.
Last year's riparian buffer proposal didn't go anywhere, thankfully. But this year, there's a fresh new idea at the forefront of riparian legislation: true bipartisanship.
The Chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Mike Chapman, a Democrat from Port Angeles, publicly said that no riparian buffer bill would pass his committee unless it had bipartisan support. Period.
He, along with myself and others, worked to bring agriculture and private landowners to the table with different tribal representatives to find a workable solution. The new proposal, House Bill 1720, creates a voluntary riparian management program that allows landowners to work with their local conservation districts. There is no heavy-handed regulatory mandate with this bill. It is strictly voluntary.
Farmers, ranchers, and private landowners know their land better than anyone. They are the ones who will know best how to improve their land and riparian areas along waterways. I know several landowners who have already told me they can think of several projects they'd love to do on their land. If House Bill 1720 passes, there would be some grant funding through local conservation districts to accomplish this.
You can watch the public hearing on this bill here. I encourage you to take a look. When the first panel of those testifying in support are the head of the Farm Bureau and the head of a tribe, people should take note. Something special is happening. I would especially like to thank the Chairman of the Colville Business Council, Jarred-Michael Erickson, who also testified in favor of the bill.
In addition, I had the opportunity to go on TVW with Rep. Chapman to discuss this bill further. You can watch that episode of The Impact here.
Telephone town hall
I want to thank those of you who participated in our telephone town hall this week. We had nearly 2,000 constituents take part in a great community conversation about the legislative session and important issues. My seatmates, Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber and Sen. Shelly Short, and I took questions from callers, talked about the legislation we're working on, and offered survey questions to get feedback from those we represent. Thank you for your continued involvement and interest in state government.
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