A House bill that would incentivize landowners to convert their land for *riparian habitats and restore salmon populations died in the House Capital Budget Committee, and 7th-District Rep. Joel Kretz (R) claims Gov. Jay Inslee killed it.

“The Governor was in complete kill mode from day one, I think it was mostly personal,” Kretz later added, “I think his worst fear was that it would have passed and worked really well, which tells you [that] most of these things aren't about the environment, they're about taking credit and posturing.”

HB 1720 proposed to make two riparian grant programs, one facilitated through the State Conservation Commission and another managed by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

Early in the 2023 legislative session, Inslee initially pushed his own version of the riparian easement program through HB 1838, which received support from local tribes, but also pushback from landowners and agricultural stakeholders.

Kretz said Inslee’s original bill infringed on private property rights and was ultimately denied by the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“It was kind of a pseudo-voluntary program, but it had lots of regulatory hooks coming up in it,” Kretz said.

In response, legislators drafted their own bipartisan version of the bill that was geared more towards agricultural producers and tribal agencies.

12th-District Rep. Keith Goehner (R) and 13th-District Representative Alex Ybarra (R) were among the sponsors tacked onto this bill.

Kretz claims that agencies like the Washington State Department of Ecology have continuously threatened agricultural stakeholders when they are put in charge of these programs.

“Most of those agencies are not there to help agriculture and what was exciting about the bill that we put together was that it was run by people more on the ground,” Kretz said. “Our local conservation districts, trust me, know a whole lot more about streamside conditions than an agency based in Olympia.”

During a public hearing in the House Capital Budget Committee, the bill received criticism from the Department of Ecology, the Governor’s own Natural Resources Advisor, and from a Skokomish tribal member.

Kretz claims that the House Capital Budget committee received pressure from Gov. Jay Inslee to kill the bill.

"Am I surprised? No, that's how Governor Inslee usually works, but I'm disappointed because I really think the bill had some possibilities of doing some some really good things that folks on the ground would have supported agriculture was kind of excited to be doing something different," Kretz said.

Due to this year’s exceptionally long legislative session, bills that didn’t make it this year still have a chance next year. Kretz said he hopes to reconvene sometime in the near future.

*Riparian habitats are buffer areas between land and water.

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