Letters to the editor | Jan. 19 edition

Readers weigh in about protecting wildlife, Vashon’s school board, and great customer service

Editor’s Note: This week’s letters include one from Claire Loebs Davis, in response to a commentary, by Wilson Hu and Kim Forhart, that appears on this page, below. The Beachcomber, in fact-checking the commentary, shared it with Davis, who provided assistance and then offered her response.

Washington Wildlife First

Response to commentary

I thank Wilson Hu and Kim Forhart for their response to “Washington’s management of fish and wildlife must be reformed.”

Washington Wildlife First’s campaign to reform the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is at a turning point, with Governor Inslee poised to appoint three members to the Commission that sets the state’s fish and wildlife policies. We urge everyone to visit www.wawildlifefirst.org for information about how to call on Governor Inslee to appoint commissioners who will prioritize conservation.

Many Department decisions are made to serve the hunters it views as its “customers.” The Department strives to “maximize hunting opportunities.” It has a “Game Management Plan,” not a “Wildlife Management Plan.” And it sets the target population for many species (such as Blue Mountain elk) based on hunter demand, not habitat capacity.

But Mr. Hu and Ms. Forhart are correct that the Department serves many constituencies. It kills wolves for the livestock industry. It allows beaver trapping to satisfy trappers. And it is dramatically increasing hatchery production in large part to satisfy the commercial fishing industry and recreational anglers.

We advocate for an agency that puts the needs of Washington’s fish and wildlife first and that manages for healthy, resilient ecosystems.

We believe accurate facts are critical and have posted fact sheets on many issues, with more to come. The need for better data was one reason we commissioned a poll last October, which was conducted by a reputable national polling organization, with a sample size sufficient to produce a margin of error of +/- 3.7%. We think our poll is revealing and invite the public to scrutinize the results on our website.

Hunters are not the problem. Washington Wildlife First supports ethical hunting.

We are grateful for Mr. Hu’s and Ms. Forhart’s dedication to conservation and invite ethical hunters like them to join our call for reform.

Claire Loebs Davis

Nonprofit reflects widespread beliefs

Last month, in the lobby of Vashon Center for the Arts, I attended the Washington Wildlife First presentation — a first in a series this organization is planning to do around the state.

I could not be more impressed with the work of this small but scrappy non-profit. The board president, Claire Loebs Davis, and the executive director, Samantha Bruegger, were there to first mingle with the crowd as we wended our way from easel to easel to slide show detailing the state of Washington wildlife and the department responsible for managing it, Washington State Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

I have been a fierce critic of WDFW’s wolf and bear management policies for years.

Recently, I read that WDFW has finally put an end to the spring bear hunt, but over objections by the department’s director, who relishes the “spring bear hunt experience.”

Thanks to the hard work of this organization, we now know the depth of corruption in this state agency, namely lack of transparency and proper oversight among other serious problems. Loebs Davis and Bruegger have been working to correct this situation namely by pointing out the lack of diversity on the board that oversees WDFW.

Comprised of retired white male hunters with no real scientific background, the agency has been frozen in time. It treats wildlife as a resource for game hunters, not as a part of an ecological balance that allows hunting but not at the expense of wildlife health.

The critique of WDFW does not extend to the staff of excellent biologists and other support staff—it’s directed solely at the leadership.

In terms of hunting, my clear understanding from the presentation by Loebs Davis and Bruegger is that they fully support the right to hunt — it’s trophy hunting that is causing problems. So many species are either threatened or endangered — the list included Mourning doves!

Statewide polls indicate Washingtonians these days support managing the wildlife of our state for its own sake, allowing for sustainable hunting while acknowledging the need to maintain a healthy ecological balance. The new board of the WDFW will hopefully get us there.

Jessica Lisovsky

School Board

Vashon’s directors deserve appreciation

The Vashon Island School District unites with other Washington school districts in saluting our island school board directors during Washington’s annual School Board Appreciation Month in January. This month is our yearly opportunity to recognize and celebrate the school board’s work on behalf of our students and our community.

Working closely to bridge the concerns of parents and educators, our small island’s school board has often been the community’s caretaker when it comes to public education. Being a school board director is a critical role requiring significant time and energy. The school board bears the responsibility of setting the vision and direction we want for our district now and for the future.

Our members work diligently behind the scenes to make the educational experience as inspirational, meaningful, and useful as possible for students as well as those who teach and support them. In this work, they are accountable to the public. They serve countless hours preparing and making decisions; decisions that have often been challenging and that require extensive learning and thoughtfulness.

They are entrusted with the responsibility and oversight of an annual budget of approximately $27 million dollars, approximately 1,450 students, more than 200 staff, and four outstanding schools.

Our deepest appreciation is extended to our dedicated directors: Toby Holmes, board chair; Allison Krustsinger, vice chair; Mariel Thuraisingham, director; and Zabette Macomber, director. We honor and appreciate their public service and commitment to our students, our district and our community.

We would also like to share our appreciation for past school board members who dedicated their time and energy in support of our district and as staunch advocates for public education. The past and current directors have made, and continue to make, a positive difference in our community and in the lives of students.

They help ensure we are keeping our Vashon Promise: Every student is welcomed, known, and treasured, and graduates confident and competent to thrive in a future they imagine.

Slade McSheehy

Superintendent, Vashon Island School District