by Tim Manns
At this writing in mid-February, the priorities of Audubon Washington and the Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC) are faring well in the state legislature. February 17th is the cut-off date for policy bills to pass out of the first committee in which they were considered. There are further cut-off dates as bills wend their way through the legislative process. Most bills will not reach the Governor’s desk. Last year the bill updating the Growth Management Act to require that counties and certain municipalities address resiliency to climate change in their comprehensive plans came within a hair’s breadth of passing when time ran out. This year there is strong optimism the bill will make it (HB 1181 Washington State Legislature & SB 5203 Washington State Legislature ). Significantly for Skagit County, this bill will require addressing such climate change effects as sea level rise.
The Washington Legislature is working on the state’s two-year budget, which has three parts: Operating, Capital, and Transportation. All three have implications for conservation. Audubon and the EPC are urging that the revenue from last session’s landmark carbon tax legislation, the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), be spent as intended; that is, on supporting meaningful climate action and community resilience to climate change. See EPC One Pager (waconservationaction.org) for specific investments we hope to see. We are fortunate to live in a state where major policy has passed to address climate change. Now comes the challenge of implementation. Contact your state legislators and urge them to spend CCA dollars as intended. These revenues come from the state’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases.
While contacting your legislators also urge them to increase funding for salmon habitat restoration (another EPC priority: EPC One Pager (waconservationaction.org)) and to approve Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s request for funding to support research on and management of non-game species, a perennially underfunded responsibility of the department central to Audubon’s interests (2023_audubon_legislative_priorities_one_pager_12.2022_0.pdf).
The state legislative session will end April 23rd. Although the session is fast-paced and our legislators are all but overwhelmed by the number of bills to be considered, hearings to be had, decisions to make, they do want to hear from constituents and are influenced by what we have to say. By letter, email, phone call, or in person, make your voice heard. The Washington Legislature’s website is easy to use and full of information about how to participate: Legislature Home (wa.gov). See particularly Washington State Legislature Participating in the Process. Previous issues of this conservation report and the Conservation Notes on the Skagit Audubon website give further information. Help make and keep Washington State the place we want it to be for us and our wildlife neighbors.
On a different note, during February word came of a request to Skagit County for a permit to erect a large billboard near the Conway I-5 interchange. There was conflicting information about what type of display this billboard would carry but widespread, uniform opposition to erecting any such sign in an area designated an Agricultural Scenic Corridor. The fields in the vicinity are a frequent foraging area for Trumpeter and Tundra Swans and Snow Geese, whose comings and goings could be adversely affected by a large barrier lit at night. The effect of lights on migrating birds presents an additional concern for Skagit Audubon. At this writing the county’s decision on the permit request is pending.
For more information about conservation issues Skagit Audubon is following, see Conservation Notes on the Skagit Audubon website (Skagit Audubon Society - Home) under the Conservation tab.