WDFW Dir. Replies To Our Letter Of Concern Ref: Mr Warren's Appointment
Jun 30, 2019 —
Recently, WDFW Dir. Susewind announced the creation of two new top level positions within the Department. One of those created is Director of Fish Policy. In this critical position, the best person he could find for the job was Mr. Ron Warren. Many of you know Mr. Warren for his many years as the Assistant Director of Fish Programs, and his direct involvement in the North of Falcon and fish management. Of course, we also know how well the North of Falcon works under Mr. Warren’s supervision, right?
We wrote Dir. Susewind and let him know of our concerns for his selection of Mr. Warren, as we have some grave reservations of his competency and, frankly, his integrity. Concerns that have been shared with us from many of you, the citizen sportsmen and others in the Department.
Below is a letter we received from Dir. Susewind in reply to these concerns. First, we would like to draw your attention to two important statements he made in his letter which we would like to address:
Dir Susewind writes:
“Your email references Ron’s poor track record and reputation, and lack of trust with “the recreational population at large.” I am aware of your past efforts to increase public participation in state-tribal North of Falcon meetings, and your frustration with our inability to provide more transparency through public participation in those meetings. I am assuming that much of your dissatisfaction with my selection of Ron for this new position surrounds that issue…”
Although it is true we had some “untruthful” interactions with Mr. Warren in our campaign, a vast majority of the issues we know about come from you, the citizen sportsmen, who have had encounters with Mr. Warren and have expressed concern about his veracity. Remember, he was the WDFW Senior staff involved in the Ten Year Chinook Harvest Management Plan that was done behind the backs of the Commission and the public.
2. Dir. Susewind further writes:
“I understand that to the average fishermen, the primary gauge of their satisfaction is the fishing opportunity available in a given year, and that 2019 was a difficult year for salmon fishing opportunity, particularly in Puget Sound.”
We find this statement particularly troubling. First, we know that the majority of recreational fishermen and public for that matter care deeply about conservation and protecting our salmon. Director Susewind’s implication that Recreational fisher’s only care about their harvest is insulting. Further, he admits that the 2019 North of Falcon was a disaster, not just for conservation, but also for the way it was conducted. With no agreements made until the 11th hour in a California hotel back room. So, Director Susewind we ask, “Who was responsible for the supervision of the 2019 North of Falcon? The answer: The same guy you just PROMOTED to DIRECTOR OF FISH POLICY, RON WARREN!
It is no wonder the Department’s trust level is the lowest we’ve seen, and that it recently lost a major legislative budget battle. Not to mention that it now has TWO LAWSUITS that it’s fighting because of its continued violations of public disclosure and secret meetings.
How much more of a sign does Director Susewind need to be able to recognize that relying on the same “good ol boy” may result in the same ends as it did for the last Director?
Here is Director Susewind’s letter:
“Thank you for your recent email regarding staffing changes that I recently announced for the Department, and your concern for the creation of the Director of Fish Policy position and appointment of Ron Warren to that position. I spent much of my first year as Director learning the Department’s structure and function, including close engagement in the North of Falcon process from start to finish, assessing the challenges the Department faces, and how our leadership team can be better positioned to carry out our mission - to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities. WDFW’s Fish Program faces some of the most diverse and complex natural resource management challenges of any state agency in the nation as we try to implement that mission statement.
In his current role as Assistant Director of the Fish Program, Ron Warren’s time has split between two main categories of job duties. Much of this time is spent dealing with all of the policy issues surrounding our fisheries, including issues in the U.S. vs Washington and U.S. vs Oregon comanagement forums, ESA hatchery and fishery issues, and leading implementation of the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s policies. He has also had all of the administrative and personnel-related responsibilities that come with day-to-day direction and operation of the Fish Program. In this new position, he will be able to focus almost entirely on the fishery policy issues, leaving the Fish Program operation responsibilities to the new Assistant Director.
Your email references Ron’s poor track record and reputation, and lack of trust with “the recreational population at large.” I am aware of your past efforts to increase public participation in state-tribal North of Falcon meetings, and your frustration with our inability to provide more transparency through public participation in those meetings. I am assuming that much of your dissatisfaction with my selection of Ron for this new position surrounds that issue, as I haven’t heard your name mentioned relative to any other fish or comanagement-related issues prior to your recent email, nor did I recall seeing you at any of the public meetings this spring.
Having participated throughout this year’s North of Falcon process, I now have a much better understanding of the complexities of the concurrent WDFW public process and state-tribal government-to-government process. I can say that among the public and advisors who follow the process closely, who listen to the frequent updates provided on state-tribal negotiating sessions, and who take the time to understand the negotiating positions, legal framework and conservation constraints that we face in developing salmon fisheries, Ron receives considerable support for the job he does in extremely difficult situations. He obviously has my full support as he moves to his new position and focuses more of his time on North of Falcon and the wide array of other fishery issues we face.
Your email also referenced how “Joe Fishermen” feel, and ask that I consider “taking the pulse of the citizen sportsmen” as I look to the future. I understand that to the average fishermen, the primary gauge of their satisfaction is the fishing opportunity available in a given year, and that 2019 was a difficult year for salmon fishing opportunity, particularly in Puget Sound. Rest assured, the Department will continue to fight to provide the best fishing opportunities we can, and to provide as much transparency as possible as we do so. Unfortunately, we must also face the realities of salmon returns that are highly variable from year to year, and that have declined over time to the point of Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing in many cases. Not only do these ESA listings limit the magnitude of fisheries that can occur, but they also bring monitoring requirements for fisheries that have substantial financial costs. We also must plan fisheries with our tribal comanagers consistent with the U.S. vs Washington and U.S. vs Oregon court cases. Until real progress is made in restoring habitat and rebuilding depressed salmon runs, splitting up the allowable harvest between state and tribal fisheries, and between various state fisheries, will continue to be difficult and controversial.
I hope that your interest in Washington’s fisheries will lead you to engage directly in our public processes for fisheries of interest to you, and to support the Department’s efforts to provide sustainable fishing opportunities for citizens around the state. While I respect that you may have personal views different than mine on the suitability of staff for their roles, I hope you will constructively engage with the department as we work through our fishery issues.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife”
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