WDFW Explores Open Meetings for NOF | Tribes Resist

On the heels of an acrimonious and controversial North of Falcon season-setting process in 2016, the WDFW Commission is exploring avenues to bring a more open and transparent process in place for coming years. After specific requests from the public, including the Twin Harbors Fish & Wildlife Advocacy group action we highlighted a few weeks ago, the Commission has asked their staff to study if and how various open-meetings and so-called “sunshine” rules might apply to critical North of Falcon negotiations.

It is our position at Tidal Exchange that transparency is one of the most important missing issues with the North of Falcon process. The current negotiating process has devolved into one where terms like “abuse of WDFW staff” are openly discussed. One Commissioner recently described past actions by the Tribal negotiators as “It seems unprofessional, it seems maybe illegal”. Clearly it is past the time for the lights to be turned on.

Commissioner Miranda Wecker gave her thoughts at the recent Commission meeting:

“… given that the department is lead by a commission, [I’m not sure] that our delegation to the director on this topic flows without the obligations under the sunshine laws. Most of the time when we delegate our authorities, the party that assumes our authorities then has to comply with the sunshine laws just as we do.”

Unfortunately, Tribal spokespeople seem much less interested in Open meetings. King 5 news is quoting spokesperson Lorraine Loomis as saying the rules do not apply to them:

“Treaty tribes – as sovereign nations – are not bound by the state’s open public meetings laws. For a number of years tribes agreed to allow some citizen representatives to observe NOF negotiations. That practice ended after the observers publicly mischaracterized tribal and state negotiating positions, further complicating an already challenging process.”

There is a simple solution to all this: stream the negotiating session audio to the public. There can be no ‘mischaracterizations’ by a microphone, and any concerns about disruption of the meetings would be set aside. Tribal members and citizens of Washington are entitled to a transparent look behind the curtain. The pattern of abuse of this process needs to end.

10 Comments on "WDFW Explores Open Meetings for NOF | Tribes Resist"

  1. If the actual problem for the Tribes is that there would be “inaccurate reporting by the public” if they were allowed to see the meetings that control the public’s opportunity to fish, there is an easy solution to that…livestream the meetings, and record them and make them available. My suspicion, however, is that no matter how much Lorraine Loomis talks about “openness”, she would rather keep the tribal tactics and meeting machinations very secret from that same public.

  2. It has become very clear that the relationship between the sports fisherman of Washington state and the tribes are becoming increasingly strained as it seems each side is jockeying for a better possision for a share of ever dwindling fishery’s. I wonder at what point all sides will work together to a ensure our grandchildren have a fishery like the one I’ve enjoyed my entire life .

    • We consider these as separate, albeit inter-related, issues. The tribes and sports-fishermen are aligned on a lot of issues–and sports-fishermen are proud to work alongside them and celebrate mutual successes on habitat/hatchery/hydro issues. We have and will continue to hilight these efforts here, including Tribal-only efforts. These are typically win-win issues where a rising tide raises all boats. However, harvest allocation and exclusion from fishing opportunity has been and likely will continue to be contentious due to it’s I-win/You-lose nature. Over the years, and in private, there is little incentive to be equitable and constructive in negotiations. Our position is that open meetings will compel more principled and mutually beneficial negotiating — which in turn can further energize collaboration in habitat/hatchery/hydro where there is already agreement and mutual interest.

  3. there would be more fish if we remove the lower SR dams and this process would be a lot easier, Free the snake NOW

  4. Perry Menchaca | December 27, 2016 at 5:46 pm | Reply

    Money is the bottom line: Transparency is the start to the solution.

    While sport fishermen fight for an opportunity to enjoy their sport, they in turn put thousands of dollars back into the economy. The fish are used in personal consumption and the method of take is (by-law) very selective.

    Treaty and non-treaty commercial fishermen catch fish for income (money). The more they can catch, the more money in their pockets. Of course they are not going to volunteer to take less. Of course they are going to use whatever method they can to get more. And of course, they will continue to take every fish they can (non-selective) until there are no fish left, because they are not going to leave money on the table for someone else!

    The difference is, the treaty tribes are self regulating. Kind of like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. And as long as the State and the Tribes are setting allocations and cutting deals in private, things will never improve.



  5. “Treaty tribes – as sovereign nations – are not bound by the state’s open public meetings laws.” While this is probably true, that does not mean the state is not bound by the laws. The tribe can, and I am sure they do, meet in private all they want. The state can not meet with them without following the law. This may end up in a court battle, but I can not see how the tribe can find a compelling reason for the state to be released of their obligations. Some accommodations to address the tribes concerns about misrepresentations or disruptions to the process, but there is no reason why the negotiations need to be in private. The government is simply an extension of the people that grant it power. They are negotiating for us, and we have a right to see and understand how the negotiations are taking place.

  6. Take the tribes to court. Have the sportsmen put up the money it takes to go to court. The tribes have no laws time for change.

  7. We have started a petition to Open the meetings to the public. The only way to get to the problems of the broken Co-mangement system is to have everything out in the open!

    Please support by signing the petition. We need solidarity. WE WILL NOT BE IGNORED!


  8. The the tribes are in violation of the Boldt decision. The Boldt decision and all subsequent rulings state “up to 50%” and also have ruled “this 50% is a ceiling and not a floor”. In Puget Sound in 2016, the tribes got 100% of the coho catch. That is a pretty effective ceiling.

    It appears the state negotiators allowed the tribes to do this. Is the state in violation of the Boldt decision also? Or just gross, negligent squandering of the public resource?

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