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.