Forty years of raw nerves over the devastation caused to the state’s timber industry by protection of the spotted owl came to the surface Monday night on the floor of the state House of Representatives as lawmakers debated a different endangered species bill. John Sattgast from the Washington House Republicans reports from the state Capitol.
SATTGAST: Emotions ran high in the House as a bill came up that would simply require the Department of Natural Resources to regularly report the status of the marbled murrelet conservation plan to the Legislature. Many House Republicans see the newest protection plan of Western Washington’s endangered coastal seabird as a rerun of the days when the spotted owl restrictions shut down timber mills and put many people out of work. This is House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen.
KRISTIANSEN: “It wasn’t that long ago when those families were thriving. Those communities were thriving. Those people had incomes. The schools were doing great. Those communities were just bustling with energy. And this body, a generation before us, made some decisions that crushed that.”
SATTGAST: The debate became heated when a Democratic lawmaker expressed surprise Republicans wanted to debate the decades-old spotted owl issue. This was Vancouver Republican Representative Brandon Vick’s response:
VICK: “Damn straight we’re going to re-fight those timber battles the last 40 years on this floor. This is a ‘fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me argument.”
Kennewick Representative Brad Klippert said its time lawmakers began standing up for families.
KLIPPERT: “There are families represented that have been destroyed because of a previous decision and I do not want that to happen again because of another bird!”
SATTGAST: Republican Representative Jim Walsh, whose community of Aberdeen was hit hardest by the spotted owl mill closures, offered amendments – one that would have put legislators on the marbled murrelet advisory committee; the other that would have reported the revenue loss and impact of the seabird’s conservation plan. He spoke passionately about the need for both measures.
WALSH: “The fathers and mothers and children of the small towns in southwest Washington — We have to think of the people of our state first! Ahead of the bird, ahead of the pocket gopher, ahead of the rest of it – we need to think of the people we represent in the body.”
SATTGAST: Both amendments were rejected along near party-line votes. The bill itself passed the House 54-43.
John Sattgast, Olympia.