Today we bring three pieces of legislation that will be of interest to our members.
HB 1631 on technical assistance for environmental stewardship
House Bill 1631, an act relating to supporting Washington’s food production system by providing technical assistance in support of improved voluntary environmental stewardship, essentially implements the Sustainable Farms and Fields program and provides support for a network of advisors in conservation districts to help farmers and food processors reduce their carbon footprint, among other things.
HB 1631 also fits well with WACD Resolution 2019-04:
The Washington Association of Conservation Districts supports increased adoption of soil health systems as well as the development and use of renewable energy sources by farmers and other landowners within the State of Washington. The WACD Board, Executive Director and Lobbyist shall participate in discussions likely to lead to legislation or WSCC funding packages to ensure that conservation districts are integral to the delivery of technical and financial assistance, on a voluntary basis, implement soil health practices; and develop and use on-farm renewable energy sources.
The first hearing will be held on Tuesday, January 11, at 10:00 am in the House Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. WACD supports HB 1631 and will sign in PRO.
HB 1652 on conservation district elections
House Bill 1652, an act relating to conservation district elections, comes up for hearing next Wednesday, January 12, at 8:00 am in the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations. HB 1652 is the bill that incorporates the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Elections. WACD supports HB 1652. We will need conservation districts to sign in PRO on this bill to demonstrate widespread support by our community.
How to sign in and submit testimony or state support/opposition
General guidance on how to submit written testimony is published at https://app.leg.wa.gov/csi/house#. At that link, you can sign in for HB 1652 at the top of the page by selecting the State Government & Tribal Relations committee on January 12 at 8:00 am. If you successfully followed those steps, you’ll see something like this:
Select the middle option of “I would like my position noted for the legislative record” and then complete the resulting form.
You can testify or sign up in support of the bill. You must sign up at least one hour before the committee hearing is to start. We encourage conservation districts to sign up as PRO for HB 1652.
Additional resources if you choose to submit testimony
- Download the Washington State Conservation Commission’s Proposal for Conservation District Election Reform: JCEProposal_113021_FINAL
- Access other documents and the list of Joint Committee on Elections members: https://hub.wadistricts.org/wacd/committees/jce/
SB 5665 on riparian restoration and maintenance
Senate Bill 5665, an act relating to protecting, restoring, and maintaining habitat for salmon recovery, presents a regulatory approach to riparian restoration and maintenance. The “riparian management zone” referred to in SB 5665 is essentially a buffer based on the site potential tree height in your location as identified by WDFW (see the ArcGIS map for what that means in your area). Fines are imposed for non-compliance. As of January 6th, it has not been scheduled for a hearing.
WACD’s main concern with SB 5665 is that requiring restoration and maintenance of riparian management zones would effectively eliminate future Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) projects and also remove the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) as a tool available for landowners. Eliminating voluntary conservation components in favor of regulation does not fit WACD’s adopted guiding principles.
While WACD does support salmon recovery, eliminating the voluntary, incentive-based methods that have been quite successful when well funded is the source of our concern. WACD has concerns with SB 5665 at this time.