Washington Governor to Be Sued for Appointing Anti-Hunters to Wildlife Commission

Washington Governor to Be Sued for Appointing Anti-Hunters to Wildlife Commission

In a bold maneuver by the state’s leading coalition of hunting and conservation advocates, Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation (WWC) announced its intent to sue Washington Gov. Jay Inslee for violating the state game code and stacking the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission with anti-hunting extremists instead of providing for a balanced perspective of stakeholders, including hunters, recreational and commercial anglers, and other user groups.

Summing up his group’s position for reporters last week, WWC President Mark Pidgeon said, “The commission is on solid footing with the environmental groups and the animal rights groups. We on the hunting side here are sorely underrepresented.” He also noted how recent appointees to the commission have made decisions that harmed both hunters and some wildlife populations.

The WWC’s Facebook page goes on to note that Inslee violated state code, which says that when selecting commissioners, governors “shall seek to maintain a balance reflecting all aspects of fish and wildlife, including representation recommended by organized groups representing sportfishers, commercial fishers, hunters, private landowners, and environmentalists.”

Readers of this NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF) website are all too familiar with the move to politicize the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation’s Fish and Wildlife Commission by stacking it with known anti-hunters. An HLF article exposed a large scale, multi-year effort led by dark money extremist groups including the mysterious Washington Wildlife First—led by Seattle attorney Claire Loebs Davis, who pushes so-called animal rights lawsuits against the DFWC through her law firm, Animal and Earth Advocates—which has worked to convince Gov. Inslee’s administration to promote its preservationist agenda among newly appointed commission members. While groups like this claim to “not be against hunting or hunters,” they often refer to themselves as adversaries of hunters and hunting. And in the case of Washington Wildlife First, even its mission statement trashes the sustainable use of America’s wildlife resources and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

As a result of this lobbying and Inslee’s own well-documented anti-science bent, anti-hunting extremists Lorna Smith and Fred Koontz were appointed to the commission in 2021. Koontz resigned in December of the same year. Then, last year, the governor appointed Melanie Rowland, Tim Ragen and John Lehmkuhl—all reliable anti-hunting votes.

The scenario soon could become worse due to further upcoming commission appointments by Gov. Inslee. Commissioner Don McIsaac resigned at the end of 2022 and will need to be replaced—and he didn’t expect to be reappointed anyway, given his support of hunting and Inslee’s preservationist push—and commissioners Barbara Baker and Kim Thorburn have finished serving their first terms. Inslee is widely expected to give anti-hunting Baker another term. Meanwhile, pro-hunting Commissioner Thorburn has reportedly clashed with the governor and doesn’t expect to be re-appointed.

All this politicking culminated last June when the newly minted anti-hunting majority on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 5-4 to shutter the state’s spring bear hunt and further implemented a survey meant to justify its anti-science push with skewed public opinion polling—and not a lick of biological science.

The evidence continues to mount that the Commission under Inslee’s leadership as governor has taken an anti-hunting extremist bent. As reported by this NRA website, commissioners Lorna Smith and Melanie Rowland demanded to see early drafts of a public opinion survey of attitudes on hunting and hunting practices—a departure from the norm that was questioned by Game Division Manager Eric Gardner. In response to the pushback and suggestion that commissioners receive both the public opinion survey and a companion one on hunters’ attitudes, the commissioners not in favor of hunting dismissed the hunter survey and pressed on, claiming there is an urgent need for an update to the state’s game management plan.

About the Author 
Cody McLaughlin is a conservationist and conservative thought leader on public policy issues including hunting, fishing, gun rights, free-market tax and wage policy and the environment. He works as a GOP consultant for conservative political causes, managing clients’ digital communications and online presence, serves currently on the board of the Alaska Outdoor Council (the Last Frontier’s State NRA Affiliate) and is a former board member and lead spokesman of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, New Jersey Outdoor Alliance helping to represent the state’s 1.2 million sportsmen in the political arena.