Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It has been a busy interim. Much of my fall involved working on priority issues in the committees I serve on in the Legislature, including as the lead Republican on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. In this update I will give an overview of some of the critical issues we discussed. Also, I provide a brief overview of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) new pesticide plan. It will have negative impacts on our agriculture and natural resource industries. I will provide another email update in December to preview the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 8.
This fall the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee held a joint tour focusing on issues that come before these committee.
Our first stop on the tour was a visit with the Colville tribe in Nespelem to discuss wolf management. Many ranchers and farmers across Washington state are struggling with increased wolf populations attacking and feeding on their livestock. The Colvilles’ have wolfpacks on their reservation. Their policies on the harvesting of wolves are not as stringent as the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), yet they have healthy wolf populations. They have shown the ability to manage the populations responsibly and effectively.
A view from the Ramona Peone Lookout above Colville land where some of the wolfpacks roam.
We also meet with ranchers and farmers who are seeking a better working relationship with WDFW to do a better job of protecting their livelihoods while being able to harvest wolves when necessary and not negatively impact wolf populations. The ranchers talked about the behavior of their cattle changing. Instead of looking for shade in the heat, they are all packed together in the open area so they can see incoming predators. The cows are aborting some of their calves early due to stress, causing loss of income, etc. Many are getting out of the ranching business. This is important as these are the folks who put food on our table. We are working on bipartisan solutions to make this work. Stay tuned.
Rep. Dent (far left) and Rep. Joel Kretz (far right), along with legislative staff, talk wolves with ranchers.
Day two of our tour started on the Cle Elum Ridge where The Nature Conservancy demonstrated some of the good, forest management work they were doing. You may recall the Jolly Mountain Fire in 2017, and how close it came to burning down into Roslyn and Cle Elum. The Conservancy organization is not only working on wildfire prevention, but trails and recreation in some of the beautiful country in the 13th District.
Legislators and staff checking out trails and prescribed burn areas on Cle Elum Ridge.
Our last stop on the tour was a potential water storage site outside of Thorp. The Mark Twain quote “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting” doesn’t apply here. Regarding this proposed project, fighting is far from what is happening. Everyone knows how important water is for our livelihoods. The details are still being worked out, but the Yakama Indian Tribe, Department of Ecology, Department of Fish and Wildlife, irrigation districts, and environmental organizations are all involved and working together. A natural area near the Springwood Ranch would be the site of the storage reservoir. This is a massive project and there is still a lot to be done, but all those involved want to make this happen.
Proposed site of water storage reservoir.
EPA proposed pesticide rules
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing new pesticide rules on more than 100 million acres across 29 states. It would restrict pesticides on more than two million acres in the Northwest.
Two of the 27 endangered or threatened species listed in the report will directly impact Washington state and be devastating to our agricultural and forestry industries. The White Bluffs bladderpod, a weed found near the Hanford Reach and the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly found in the Skagit area of western Washington could severely curtail agriculture production in the state. Our own Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) indicates that the EPA’s proposal is “in direct opposition to scientific literature.”
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reportedly also stated the impacts of the new pesticide rules will be “staggering.” It would make farming in some regions next to impossible. The plan is not realistic and will drive our farmers, ranchers, and forestry industries out of business.
The chair of the House Agriculture, and Natural Resource Committee, Rep. Mike Chapman, and I, along with the chair of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee, Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, and the ranking Republican, Sen. Ron Muzzall, have sent a letter to the EPA requesting they carefully reconsider their plan. We respectfully request the EPA reconsider this pilot project and revisit the potential economic harm and negative impacts it will have on Washington and other states in the Pacific Northwest.
There are four pesticide use limitation areas (PULA) under the proposed herbicide strategy by the EPA. You see the areas that would be impacted in the graphic below.
For more background and information on the issue check out these news articles:
- EPA’s authority for pesticide proposals questioned (Nov. 6, 2023)
- Editorial: EPA’s rush leaves stakeholders in the lurch (Nov. 2, 2023)
- State agriculture directors ask EPA to defend ‘herbicide strategy’ (Oct. 27, 2023)
- ‘Pilot’ pesticide plan met with dire warnings, disbelief (Oct. 19, 2023)
I am also working with Congressman Dan Newhouse on this issue. I would add that this is not a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans who represent areas of agriculture and natural resources are all very concerned about this proposal.
Grizzly bear reintroduction
Not only are we battling a potentially devastating pesticide plan, but the federal government is also working to reintroduce grizzly bears in the North Cascades mountain range. While this is a federal issue, the state will be watching the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s (USFW) decision closely. This will certainly impact agriculture, timber, farming and recreation in North Central Washington. Most of those who I have talked to about this issue are adamantly opposed to the plan. The USFW is expected to make a final decision this spring.
(Photo courtesy of Associated Press.)
New legislative assistant
In December, I will have a new legislative assistant for the upcoming session, Roy Atwood. Patricia Tenney who has been with me for more than five years is moving on. I want to thank her for the great work she has done over the years and wish her the best. Roy has worked for Congressman Jack Metcalf and Sen. Slade Gorton. He has also worked in the Legislature for a number of years, so he will be able to step in right away and hit the ground running. I know he will do a great job.
House Page Program
Students interested in the Washington State House of Representatives Page Program can now submit their applications. Students from the age of 14 to 16 are eligible. Pages help legislators, including delivering documents and providing assistance in the chamber during floor sessions. During their 40-hour work week of service, they also attend Legislative Page School and learn firsthand about the Legislature and the other branches of state government in action. The 60-day legislative session begins Jan. 8 and ends on March 7. When applying, potential pages can select which weeks they are available to work. Pages earn a stipend of $65 per day and can also earn up to 20 hours of community service. Click here for the online application.
Please let me know if you have any questions about this email update or the upcoming legislative session. In the meantime, below are some options to help you stay informed or involved on what is happening with our state government.
- My legislative website: You will find my contact information, bio, news releases, email updates, opinion pieces, bills, and other information.
- How you can be involved in the legislative process: This includes a citizen’s guide to effective legislative participation.
- TVW: The state’s own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
- The Ledger: A legislative news aggregator that is updated frequently.
- Capitol Buzz: Sent out each weekday, featuring stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
I hope you and your family have a great Thanksgiving. I also want to thank our veterans since we just celebrated Veterans Day. Your service is greatly appreciated.
It is an honor to serve the great folks of the 13th Legislative District!