Talking with Washington State Legislators-Stanford
by: Simon Davis-Cohen Posted on: September 12, 2012
Editor’s Note: We asked our state legislators a lot of questions, below is what we could extract from Representative Derek Stanford. Stanford is Vice Chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Name: Derek Stanford
Party affiliation: Democrat
With the budget crisis, numerous environmental laws are under attack. What is an existing law that is being threatened that protects both our natural resources/environment and future economic stability? Explain.
A stable and fair system for managing water rights is critical to both our economy and our environment. A reliable supply of water is needed for agriculture, for residential use, and for healthy, fish-bearing lakes and streams. One important part of water law is the idea of relinquishment. If someone does not use a water right for several years, then they relinquish that right. This allows the water to be used by others who need it, and it helps us avoid hoarding of water rights. Right now (January, 2012), there are several bills being considered in the legislature which would end the practice of relinquishment. This would make it more difficult to guarantee sufficient stream flows for salmon runs, and it would create barriers for farmers who are seeking new water rights to expand their farms.
How can the Washington State Legislature act independently of the Federal Government to address environmental challenges, support farmers, or protect natural resources?
Our state has wide latitude for addressing environmental challenges. For example, we have created the Growth Management Act, which is an important tool for planning for population growth and development while balancing our need for open space and agricultural lands. We also use critical areas ordinances, shoreline plans, and other laws to protect clean air and clean water. Several state agencies work with farmers and other landowners to promote good environmental practices and enforce laws, including the Department of Ecology, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Conservation Districts.
In what ways is the Washington State Legislature dependent on the Federal Government to address natural resource and environmental issues?
A significant amount of funding comes from the federal government to help manage environmental needs, such as cleaning up Puget Sound and maintaining healthy forests on public lands. Without these funds, our state would face severe constraints on addressing these needs.
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