Fish and Wildlife looks to slash $30.5 million

OLYMPIA -- The state Department of Fish and Wildlife needs to cut $30.5 million as its part in Gov. Chris Gregoire's plan for closing Washington's $6 billion budget deficit.

Joe Stohrs, a department deputy director, told the Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday the cuts amount to $8.5 million from the Wildlife fund and $22 million in general fund spending.

The Wildlife fund is mostly money from hunting and fishing license fees.

Department managers spent two days this week working on potential trims to the agency's budget.

Those cuts include 157 full-time equivalent jobs.

Other specifics mentioned included ending the department's aviation facilities and loss of support staff for the master hunter and volunteer programs plus assistance to local governments.

Seven hatcheries were mentioned as possibilities for closure.

Guy Norman, regional director, said the hatcheries are deep into the prioritized list of cuts, but includes Mossyrock hatchery in Lewis County.

Stohrs said some natural resource agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources or Department of Ecology get money from a variety of sources, but Fish and Wildlife's dollars come mostly from the two funds.

Gregoire made a campaign pledge for no new taxes, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife does not plan to ask for any fee increases.

Stohrs said the agency has identified eight different ways to increase fees if state lawmakers ask for suggestions, including a fishing license increase and a fee for using two fishing rods in designated waters.

The preliminary reduction plans strive to keep the agency's "core functions" as whole as possible, he said.

In general, the plan favors regional staff over Olympia positions and line workers over managers, he added.