By Jason Callahan
Jason Callahan is the Director of Governmental Relations for the Washington Forest Protection Association.
At the nexus of private enterprise and public resources, headlines are usually made when private landowners or businesses clash with the government over regulatory protection of endangered species. However, the everyday reality is more a story of cooperation, shared responsibilities, and public-private partnerships. House Bill 2307, which was sponsored this session in the Washington Legislature by Rep. Luanne Van Werven (R-Lynden) and signed into law on March 22, is another chapter in that story. Now landowners can more broadly share data with researchers and resource managers, with the confidence that sensitive wildlife data will remain protected under the strength of our state law.
At the Washington Forest Protection Association, we talk a lot about working forests. That term can mean several things, including that the forest works for the fish and wildlife that call it home. Private forest landowners work every day providing important habitat for Washington’s fish and wildlife, including many species that are threatened or endangered. The forest landowners do this in partnership with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to ensure a cohesive and effective state management strategy. Sharing data with other government agencies, public utilities, colleges and universities, however, can remove state law protections for sensitive wildlife data. This bill fixes that. HB 2307 ensures that current state protections for sensitive wildlife data are maintained, by closing a loophole that could lead to the unintended release of wildlife population data.
Kudos to Rep. Van Werven for identifying this issue and championing HB 2307. Her efforts will ensure that working forests in Whatcom County, and statewide, can continue to work for fish, wildlife, local communities, and the state’s economy.