Washington has 3 new fish and wildlife commissioners


Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Monday named three new members to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, including two people from the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range.

Melanie Rowland of Twisp, John Lehmkuhl of Wenatchee and Timothy Ragen of Skagit County will join the nine-member panel that has been subject to heated political disputes over the past year.

Lehmkuhl, a retired research biologist for the U.S. Forest Service who has studied a wide range of wildlife from birds and small mammals to big game like deer and elk, holds a seat that by law , is restricted to a resident of eastern Washington. According to background information provided by Inslee’s press team, Lehmkuhl is a lifelong hunter and fisherman who thinks Washington needs a new fish and wildlife funding regime.

He enjoys riding horses and serves on the Wildlife Diversity Advisory Council of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department. During his professional career, his research has integrated wildlife management with the management of dry forest types found on the east side of the state.

The seat he will occupy had been vacant for more than a year.

Rowland is a retired attorney who worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and specialized in the conservation of threatened and endangered species such as salmon, rainbow trout and resident killer whales. South. She previously worked for the Wilderness Society, taught law at the University of Washington, and served on the boards of the Seattle Audubon Society, the Washington Environmental Council, and the Pacific Biodiversity Council. She is a bird watcher and participates in a wide range of other outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing and sea kayaking. Rowland’s “at large” seat is not reserved for a specific geographic region. It was previously owned by Fred Koontz who resigned late last year.

Ragen is an expert on marine mammals. He retired in 2013 as executive director of the US Marine Mammal Commission. During his career he has worked on recovery projects for Steller sea lions and Hawaiian monk seals.

After his retirement, Ragen continued to work on marine mammal issues, including a project to protect salmon migrations diminished by predation by California and Steller sea lions. He believes that solving difficult conservation and wildlife management problems takes time and collaboration.

Ragen replaces commission chairman Larry Carpenter, whose term expired more than a year ago. Carpenter agreed to continue on the panel until a replacement is named.

With the new appointments, Inslee has a chance to remake the board that has seen political clashes in recent months. Flashpoints have included fights during the spring 2022 black bear hunting season and the possibility that the cougar harvest could be increased to help the struggling Blue Mountain Elk Herds. Inslee’s appointment of Koontz, Duvall, and Lorna Smith, of Discovery Bay last year sparked protests from hunters and anglers who felt hostile to hunting and fishing. Likewise, some conservation organizations have criticized both the department and the commission for its large carnivore policies.

Jay Holzmiller, rancher, logger and former Anatone board member, said listening and a willingness to engage are important qualities for board members.

“The most important thing is if they will be open-minded,” he said. “You’re one of the nine, so you have to build relationships.”

Chris Bachman of the Kettle Range Conservation Group said he knew both Lehmkuhl and Ragen. He likes that Lehmkuhl is a hunter and angler with a background in conservation science and said Ragen’s experience with marine mammals is a plus.


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