Recently inspired by the Elwa Dam Removal Project in the Olympic National Forest, the first of its kind in the United States, I decided to pursue a house bill that focused on agriculture and natural resources. After researching further into this matter, I found that there were several bills up for discussion, including one regarding the limitations on Washington State related to the Endangered Species Act. It pertains to the State’s ability to voluntarily adhere to a habitat conservation plan, which it has previously participated in.
I decided to meet with Representative Erick Pettigrew to get a better understanding of why the state would hesitate to enter in a habitat conservation plan, which would seem to be only beneficial for Washington’s well being. After looking further into it, there is a concern by the legislature that this would require the state to refrain from certain actions, a wetland restoration for example, while potentially limiting decision-making options for future legislatures. Future legislatures is the key. I decided to confirm this very issue with the Representative.
My brief meeting with Rep. Pettigrew was very revealing. I presented this last point to him wondering if this was the reason of any reluctance for the state to adhere to this portion of the Endangered Species Act. He quickly pointed out that, while it is important that Washington is managing its aquatic portfolio in a manner that complies with the Act that it does not have to bind itself in to a long-term agreement that would inhibit the state in any way. As reiterated by Pettigrew, the state has its own channels of managing its aquatic lands, such as the Department of Ecology, which allows the state to take care of its ecological portfolio while not raising new liabilities politically.
One thing I learned from this experience is that is incredibly important to have direct structured questions when meeting with public officials—otherwise it is difficult for them to entertain an opinion.