A House bill that would incentivize landowners to convert their land for riparian habitats and restore salmon populations is moving through the House committee.

The House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources voted to pass a substitute bill of HB 1720, which would create two riparian grant programs, one facilitated through the State Conservation Commission and another managed by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

24th-District Rep. Mike Chapman (D) is the key sponsor of this bill, and 12th-District Rep. Keith Goehner (R) and 7th-District Rep. Joel Kretz (R) sponsored this bill as well.

On Feb. 20, the House Capital Budget Committee held a public hearing for this bill.

Chairman of the Colville Tribal Business Council Jarred-Michael Erickson testified in support of this bill.

“An important component of these recovery efforts is habitat restoration and protection,” Erickson said. “We also recognize that climate change is accelerating the scope and scale [of] which this work is needed.” 

Those who testified in support of this bill also included President of Washington Farm Bureau Rosella Mosby and the Chairman for the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe Ron Allen.

Laura Blackmore with the Puget Sound Partnership said her organization supported the intent of the bill, but that there needs to be more oversight by technical experts and that the bill missed key elements.

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Jennifer Hennessy with the Department of Ecology testified against the bill, stating that several parts of the bill are problematic and lack adequate accountability.

“We believe the overall goal for the program, the language about best available science, and the metrics, lack clarity and precision,” Hennessy said. “The taskforce also does not contain agencies with relevant expertise, including ecology, and we think it's really important that state agencies have full and equal membership on the task force.”

David Herrera from the Skokomish tribe said the bill lacked tribal involvement while developing this task force.

“We have provided written comments, suggested edits two times to the bill sponsors and none of them are being incorporated into the bill,” Herrera said. “So we want to have a bill we can support, we need to have a way to participate to help shape that Bill and make it work for all of us.” 

The Governor’s Natural Resources Advisor Ruth Musgrave testified against the bill, sharing that the Governor’s Office supports a voluntary program for salmon restoration, but that this grant program needs more accountability.

On Feb. 22, the House Capital Budget Committee was scheduled to discuss this bill during an executive session, but no action was taken.

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