In a letter jointly addressed to the Director of WDFW and the Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, the Twin Harbors Fish & Wildlife Advocacy has requested the season setting meetings between the two co-managers be opened to the public. Currently, the two co-managers meet behind closed doors, typically in tribal offices on reservations, and decide the seasons for non-tribal and tribal fisheries. Then, the Department holds “dog and pony shows” open to the public to ask for input when the seasons have already been set out of sight of the public.
The letter addresses in detail that while the tribes may be sovereign governments, the Opening Meeting Act and the Administrative Procedures Act of the State of Washington apply to the Department and it is required to operate in a transparent legal fashion with or without tribal co-management approval.
The letter explains how many in the public are currently under the perception:
• Tribal seasons are resulting in tribal fishers exceeding the 50/50 allocation formula in U.S. v- WA (Boldt decision) at the expense of the non-tribal fishers;
• The Department is either unable or unwilling to adequately represent the non-tribal sector during its negotiations with tribal co-managers;
• Department staff engaged in the negotiations are being pressured by the Office of Governor or elected Legislators to agree to the tribal seasons proposed;
• In areas where stocks are covered by the ESA, federal regulators (NOAA & BIA) are using the threat of closing down non-tribal seasons entirely as a means to pressure the Department to agree to the seasons proposed by tribal negotiators.
In the closing, the Advocacy respectfully asks that the two co-managers simply honor the legal rights of transparency that both tribal and non-tribal citizens are entitled to under state law. In the event the request is rejected, the Advocacy members are preparing to seek a remedy in court. With the 2017 season setting about to begin, time is of the essence.
No one is safe when government bureaucrats meet behind closed doors to divide up the public’s assets. We are hoping all will share the letter with their friends, organizations and email contact lists. Those that blog or do social media, fire away. To enable circulation, the letter is attached and also posted on the Advocacy’s website. It is also available for direct viewing and downloading HERE