Budget-cutting plan threatens DFW Region 2 - Governor's proposal would merge two regions

By John Hanron
Methow Valley News


A movement is afoot in North Central Washington to resist an attempt by the state to consolidate regions 2 and 3 of the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A budget-trimming proposal by Gov. Gary Locke recommends absorbing Region 2, which serves all of North Central Washington, into Region 3, which is based in Yakima and serves central Washington.

The consolidation would mean the immediate loss of at least four administrative jobs, including that of regional director Dennis Beich.

Beich said Tuesday that if the legislature approves the consolidation, Region 2 employees would still work out of Ephrata, but the office would no longer be open to the public.

Potentially more damaging to the region is the loss of policymakers who are geographically close to the region they are serving. Administrators in Yakima are already busy with issues in Region 3. Beich said there is concern that issues in Region 2 will not get as much attention as they do now from administration in Ephrata.

"We both have a full plate now," he said. "Obviously, controversial issues in the North Central region won’t get near the attention."

He mentioned the establishment of a spring Chinook and steelhead fishery in the upper Columbia River system, regional salmon recovery and control of dangerous wildlife as three issues that could suffer setbacks if the reins to the region were handed over to the Yakima office.

Methow Valley fly fisher and activist Ben Dennis said the proposal would have too many harmful effects for the amount of money it saves.

"We’ve got two listed ESA fish and the threatened bull trout and those take a lot of monitoring," he said. "It just seems like a stupid move, all to save a couple of salaries."

Dennis said Region 2 is already so huge–it encompasses five counties and covers 14,000 square miles–it would become unmanageable for the agency’s Yakima division.

"The Yakima is another world," Dennis said. "It’s a half a state away. We’d be a lost area."

"We have in place an agency that is knowledgeable about the region in which they live and work," Dennis wrote in an alert sent out by e-mail. "Incorporating Region 2 into another for budget’s sake isn’t fixing anything."

Beich said the agency is not supportive of the governor’s proposal. And though, he said, this is the sixth time in 12 years that the consolidation has been proposed during biennial budget negotiations, he is concerned that with the condition of the state budget, this occasion could be more seriously considered by legislators.

Region 2 employs 128 people, according to Beich. If the proposal goes through, the regional director, an administrative assistant and two office managers would be cut. Beich said at least five other positions could be jeopardized by the consolidation.

Also included in the budget-slashing proposal is the closure of three hatcheries on the west side of the state, Beich said.

Dennis encouraged people to c ontact their legislators to let them know how they feel about the issue


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