Balancing Tradition and Innovation: Patrick DePoe's Bid for Lands Commissioner

Patrick DePoe, Makah Tribe member and DNR Tribal Relations Director, aims to be WA's first Native American statewide official as Lands Commissioner. He pledges to draw on his experience to improve wildfire management and balance conservation with rural economic needs.

Balancing Tradition and Innovation: Patrick DePoe's Bid for Lands Commissioner

Patrick DePoe, a former elected member of the Makah Tribal Council, current Director of Tribal Relations for the Department of Natural Resources and candidate for Commissioner of Public Lands, outlined his vision for managing the state's natural resources while emphasizing his unique professional and lived experience. 

The Commissioner of Public Lands leads the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which is responsible for managing and protecting the health and productivity of 5.6 million acres of public lands and waters, while generating revenue for schools and public services. The Commissioner also oversees the state's largest on-call fire department, responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 13 million acres of state and private forest lands.

If elected, DePoe would focus on key initiatives, including addressing climate change, promoting environmental justice, balancing economic needs with conservation, and improving wildfire management. His candidacy is notable as he could potentially become the first Native American statewide elected official in Washington. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Kevin Van De Wege, and Dave Upthegrove are also running for the position.

DePoe highlighted his deep connection to the land and his experience in natural resource management. "I grew up in Neah Bay - the northwest tip of Washington - the Makah Reservation," DePoe said. "We are definitely a community that…truly understands the importance of sustainability of our natural resources."

DePoe emphasized the critical role of the Public Lands Commissioner in addressing climate change, managing wildfires, and balancing economic needs with environmental protection. He pointed to his extensive background in these areas, including 20 years as a first responder and his work on various tribal natural resource committees.

On the issue of wildfire management, DePoe praised recent improvements but stressed the need for continued innovation. "There's new AI technology for early response. There's a push for updated equipment for our firefighters who are putting their lives on the line," he noted. He also emphasized the importance of incorporating traditional ecological knowledge into DNR practices, stating, "We have stories across Washington state of - people call them prescribed burns, we call them cultural burns. This isn't new to us."

Addressing the challenges faced by rural communities dependent on timber revenue, DePoe drew from his personal experience growing up on the Makah Reservation. He stressed the importance of balancing economic needs with environmental protection: "When we're talking about balance and sustainability, I understand that there is a way to do both, and that there's processes that we have that just need that attention and that, honestly, dedication to build up and strengthen."

DePoe emphasized the importance of balancing environmental conservation and climate change mitigation with the economic needs of rural communities. Drawing from his experience on the Makah Reservation, he stressed the need for a nuanced approach to land management. "When I talk about balance and sustainability, I understand that there is a way to do both, and that there's processes that we have that just need that attention and that, honestly," DePoe stated. He highlighted the complex relationship between timber harvesting, climate change, and local economies, noting that completely halting timber harvests could lead to importing wood from less regulated areas, potentially increasing climate impacts. 

DePoe addressed concerns about donations he's received from the timber industry, framing it as a willingness to engage with all stakeholders. "I've taken money from anybody that'll listen to me, sit down, and have a conversation, and feel that I'm the best person to support them because of my qualifications and my background," he explained.

On environmental justice, DePoe emphasized the importance of proper engagement with communities, particularly tribal nations. "It's early. It's often. It's meaningful. It's seriously just as simple as that," he said. He highlighted his experience in tribal consultation and policy development, including his role in helping write DNR's first-of-its-kind tribal consultation policy.

Regarding the use of incarcerated labor for firefighting, DePoe expressed support while noting recent improvements in compensation. "I'm proud to say we're the first agency in the nation to actually provide minimum wage to these folks," he said.

DePoe touted his experience managing over 400 employees for the Makah Tribe and his background in natural resource management. "I am the only candidate that does not need on-the-job training," he asserted, emphasizing his direct experience within the DNR and his extensive work on natural resource committees at local, state, and national levels. 

Throughout the interview, DePoe emphasized that his candidacy represents not just his individual qualifications but also a historic opportunity for representation. "This isn't just a job for me - this is the life that I've been living my entire life, and it's the same for folks from our reservations and our rural communities across the state," he said.

The primary for Commissioner of Public Lands will end on August 6th, and the top two finishers will advance to the general election that ends on November 5th, 2024. People who wish to vote can register or update their registration online at

About the Guest

Patrick DePoe

Patrick currently serves on the executive team at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. He’s worked as a commercial fisherman, a land manager, and spent six years as an elected member of the Makah Tribal Council, where he led Tribal coordination with state and federal agencies on climate resilience and habitat restoration. Patrick earned his degree from the University of Washington, where he began nearly two decades of working and volunteering in emergency response: skippering a 110-foot boat to clean up oil spills, and leading preventative work to make our forests more resilient to wildfires and the effects of climate change. 

In his role on Makah Tribal Council, most recently as Vice Chairman, Patrick co-chaired the Natural Resources Subcommittee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal-Interior Budget Council, represented the Makah Tribe on the Pacific Fishery Management Council, served as Treasurer for the Northwest Indian Fish Commission, served on the Low-carbon Energy Siting Study Advisory Board, co-chaired Washington State’s Environmental Justice Council, and chaired the Natural Resources Subcommittee or the National Congress of American Indians

If elected, Patrick would be the first Native American elected to statewide office in Washington, the Pacific Northwest and one of the first in American history.

Find Patrick on Twitter/X at @PatrickDePoe.

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review show and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at and in our episode notes.

Today, we're focusing on a critical position in Washington state that will be on our ballots this year - the Commissioner of Public Lands. This elected official leads the Department of Natural Resources, with over 2,500 employees across 11 divisions, managing a vast portfolio that impacts our state's environment, economy, and communities. The Commissioner oversees management of 5.6 million acres of public lands - from coastal waters and aquatic reserves, to working forests and farms, mining operations, commercial developments, and recreation areas. They're responsible for generating revenue from these lands to support local services, while also preserving habitats and addressing climate change. These lands currently generate over $200 million annually for schools and public services like libraries and hospitals. The Commissioner manages our state's largest on-call fire department, responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 13 million acres of state and private forest lands. This is increasingly critical as climate change intensifies wildfire seasons, affecting air quality and public safety across Washington. Ecological responsibilities include salmon habitat restoration, protection of endangered species, and enhancing carbon sequestration in our forests. They also manage the geoduck fishery and oversee the removal of derelict vessels from state waters. The Commissioner plays a key role in climate resilience, developing strategies to adapt state lands and their uses to changing environmental conditions and needs. They work closely with the tribal governments and sovereign nations - honoring treaty rights and fostering collaborative land management. For rural residents, the Commissioner's policies directly impact job opportunities in forestry, agriculture, and emerging clean energy sectors. Urban and suburban folks are affected, too - from the expansion of urban tree canopies that cool our cities to the preservation of recreation areas where we camp, hike, and connect with nature. This position affects everyone in our state from the air we breathe to the economic vitality of rural communities. It's vital for voters to understand the significance of this role as you make your choice for this position on your ballot in this August primary and November general election.

To discuss his vision for this important position, we're joined by Patrick DePoe, a former commercial fisherman, land manager and elected member of the Makah Tribal Council, current Director of Tribal Relations for the Department of Natural Resources, and candidate for Commissioner of Public Lands. We'll explore Patrick's approach to balancing economic needs with environmental protection and how he aims to address pressing issues like wildfire prevention, climate change, and tribal engagement. Welcome to the show.

[00:03:37] Patrick DePoe: Great to be here. I appreciate the invite and really loving to dive into some of these questions. This is beautiful.

[00:03:43] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. So starting out, what made you decide to run for Commissioner of Public Lands?

[00:03:49] Patrick DePoe: So my name is Patrick Finedays DePoe. My Native given name is Ye•ʔiɫtin - it means "The One Everybody Knows and Talks To." I grew up in Neah Bay - the northwest tip of Washington - the Makah Reservation. You cannot go any farther to the northwest tip - you can stand out at Cape Flattery, look to your right and see Canada, look straight and see the Pacific Ocean. We are definitely an isolated community. We are definitely a community that is - truly understands the importance of sustainability of our natural resources. I say that from a management perspective. I say that from an economic perspective. But I also say that from a heritage perspective, a spiritual perspective, a cultural perspective. And when we're talking about the importance of our natural resources, this is something my heart's always been in. This is something my passion has always been about. And you can just honestly look through my resume and see, whether it was 20 years as a first responder - I had my captain's license, so I ran ships up and down the coast for oil response - I was called out in the middle of the night sometimes for whether it was fire response or whether it was for some illegal dumping situation happening on our terrestrial lands. I was a tribal leader - natural resources was always my charge. Treasurer of the Northwest Indian Fish Commission, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee for National Congress of American Indians, co-chair of the Natural Resources Committee for Tribal Interior Budget Council. And the list really goes on and on, but what I think it really amplifies is - not only my love for our natural resources, but also my experience that I bring to this. And when we really get down to it, it's always said - We're doing this for our seven generations out, eight generations out, and to make sure that our future generations have the ability to enjoy the same things that we do. And I say that, but also recognizing that there's a lot of issues that are currently at play that are putting those resources in a strain. And that we need to recognize that, we need to understand what are the ways we can work to rebuild, what are the ways we can work to advocate for, and what are the ways we can work to partnership on making sure that we're bringing those resources the amount of attention that's needed.

[00:05:59] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. So what are the biggest challenges facing the Department of Natural Resources?

[00:06:05] Patrick DePoe: Oh, the climate crisis right off the bat. The climate crisis increased wildfire. If you look - in 2014, you can see that we've lost over a million acres of land to wildfire. Now, because of proposed legislation that DNR was able to put forward a few years back, it resulted in a lot of extra funding that we were able to prioritize directly towards our fire response. I think we went from 3 or 4 helicopters to about 38, so we were able to definitely increase our response time. And I bring up that number in 2014 because although it was a million acres, this last year we've seen record number of wildfires, but we're still under 220,000 acres. Now 220,000 acres, when you say only - that's still a lot of acres, that's still a lot of land - continuing to build that, continuing to prioritize those things, continuing to understand. The impact that this agency really has - not just on the climate, but also on the people that are sustained by those resources. When I speak about that, it gets into my own cultural background - the ceremonial part of it, the spiritual part of it - for our salmon, for our four-legged animals, and the forests. And climate crisis, fire response, shoreline management - these are all top priorities - creation of jobs in our rural communities. But also it hits a little bit deeper for me too, in a sense that - and it blows me away - that there is never in the history of Washington State or the Pacific Northwest for that matter, been a statewide elected Native American. Somebody that's actually from this state, that's an enrolled member, that actually grew up understanding the importance of these resources on that level that we talk about. And so it's also about environmental justice for me. It's also about representation for me. It's also about showing our future generations that there's paths to these positions that impact our lives. And I'm hoping that - and I don't want to say I hope - I'm excited about the opportunity to blaze that trail and open up that door and to be able to help other folks in the same situation that I'm at. And talking about that big endorsement today - that's another lady that definitely understands what it means to be a first. And so we're making headway and I'm loving it.

[00:08:17] Crystal Fincher: You talked about the increased number of wildfires. We're certainly seeing them. More are expected, especially as things heat up and dry out because of climate change. Are we currently managing our forests and areas vulnerable to wildfire as effectively as we need to? And what will your approach be?

[00:08:41] Patrick DePoe: Continue to build off of what we've already have done. I can tell you that we're moving in the right direction because I can draw the parallel from 2014 to today - despite the increase. But there's other options out there that are available. There's other ways that we can build off of what we have already seen. There's new AI technology for early response. There's a push for updated equipment for our firefighters who are putting their lives on the line to protect not just our resources, but honestly, people's neighborhoods, people's families, people's livelihoods. And then there's also a part that I'm really passionate about is being in a position to be able to bring an understanding of what tribal ecological knowledge is and merge that into how we do things at DNR. We have stories across Washington state of - people call them prescribed burns, we call them cultural burns. This isn't new to us. This is something we've been doing - we can say time immemorial - we could talk about the different management of some of our forests. For example, historically, where I'm from - in Makah Village - we used to plant crabapple trees around our villages because crabapple tree roots will go straight down, where other trees spread out like that. And so when a fire would hit, it didn't have the ability to cross over to another tree - they just basically went down into the ground - and it was a matter of fire prevention. And whether that's relevant to practices that we can implement - there's teachings out there, there's knowledge out there, there's that understanding out there. When I talk about the tribes that have endorsed me - Yakima, Colville, Lummi, Suquamish, Tulalip, Nisqually, I mean the list goes on - every one of those communities has those teachings, they have that understanding. And being able to open up a door to that - I was part of the Tribal Ecological Handbook that was being updated from NOAA during COVID. I was part of those consultations, and being able to integrate some of our understanding on how they manage things was beautiful. There's roadmaps, there's processes out there that I was directly a part of that I can't wait to get into implementing in our department here.

[00:10:45] Crystal Fincher: And I want to talk about that a little bit more because in this race, certainly by other candidates - they've talked about following the lead of sovereign nations, the co-management role of tribes, how important it is to involve, follow, and center our tribal communities in the management of the land. What does that look like practically on the ground in the day-to-day work of DNR? What would that look like under your administration?

[00:11:14] Patrick DePoe: Unfortunately, I've been present at a number of candidate forums with these other folks that are in this race. And I've heard those words. And they sound great. It sounds great coming from them. And then when we get into what does that mean, it's just crickets - I don't hear what I'm waiting - because I want to know what they're thinking as well. Yes, tell me from an Indigenous perspective, a person that's from a reservation, a person that served as a tribal leader that helped rewrite some of these policies with tribal engagement. Explain to me how you would be able to bolster that. And I'm not getting what I want, I'm not hearing what they're talking about. For me, it's early. It's often. It's meaningful. It's seriously just as simple as that. It's not a check the box. It's not saying I talked to a representative or I talked to an Indian from that community so I can move on. No, it has to be an actual part of a consultation. And it means understanding what these different tribal nations' consultation policies look like. Just because we have a consultation policy that I actually had the opportunity to help write and build for the Department of Natural Resources - that is the first of its kind that's in place now. I was on tribal government when they were building and putting it together, and they consulted with us. And I reached out, and I had a lot of my notes that were put into the policy. And now that I'm in this position, it's lovely to see that. But at the same time, other tribes have their own policies - they're sovereign nations. You can't impose what you think is best for them. You have to be able to have those conversations. You have to be able to reach out. You can't say - Well, I think these Indians will really like this. You know, it's a matter of being able to call them up and have that chat and be able to understand the actual protocols that are in place to make that happen. Honestly, I've been hearing so many different land acknowledgements through this process - blows me away. Okay, yes, you're acknowledging that we've been here stewarding these lands since time immemorial. Well, I'm giving you an opportunity right now to put some action behind that acknowledgement. Prove it to me. You have a candidate that has been entrusted with endorsements and support overwhelmingly from tribal nations across Washington State. If you're really truly about what you're saying - Well, here's that chance. Let me see you put that to action. And so who better to understand that and to know that than somebody that actually lives that life, somebody that actually comes to this position that's helped write these policies, somebody that comes to this position that has advocated for those policies, somebody that's come to that position that has interacted with government agencies at every level - from the state to the feds to the national, international levels - in regards to what it means to be integrated into these policies and processes, than an actual tribal member who has that background?

[00:14:01] Crystal Fincher: Now, beyond wildfires, how would you address other natural hazards, such as landslides and floods that affect state-managed lands?

[00:14:10] Patrick DePoe: Absolutely. We have our processes. We have our different ID teams. We have our Forest Practice Board. We have our adaptive management process. We have our timber, fish, and wildlife relationship. And I bring all of these up because it's important for everybody else to understand too how these came to be - you're going back to the 80s there. Another indigenous person came into DNR, Billy Frank Jr., and said - We need to figure this process out. He brought the tribes together, he brought the industry, the state, the environmentalists - and sat them all down and we created these processes that helped us adapt, that helped us change when we need to change. That relationship, I'll say, is fractionated at the moment, but I strongly believe I'm a candidate that can put the focus and the priority where it needs to be in order to get this back in a working manner that is going to be effective for what we need to come out of it. And so sometimes it's working directly with our tribal nations - and I say that sometimes, I actually mean all the time - in regards to that understanding goes back to that tribal ecological knowledge, goes back to the importance. Because the last thing you want to do is gloss over something and end up in a position where you have a landslide that goes into a fish-bearing stream - that could shut down an entire generation of salmon. If that shuts down - your salmon are three to four-year returns - you lost a whole year, and that has effects for generations to come. And so it's about doing things appropriately, it's about understanding all the different perspectives in this, but really making the decisions based off of the sound science and the integration of that outreach that needs to happen.

[00:15:48] Crystal Fincher: Are there specific strategies or tactics you would undertake to reduce the frequency or severity of landslides or floods?

[00:15:58] Patrick DePoe: Well, floods, for example - a lot of floods is due to rainfall - it just really depends on what you're talking about with floods, but understanding the importance of our instream flows. For me, with regards to some of our slope stability processes - I would like to see some more integration with those folks that are living right there. I'm talking about tribal nations that have their own department that's dedicated to that - they have their own science that's dedicated to that. There's some statutory requirements that need to be looked at and examined and to see how you can integrate some of those things - that's something I'm very familiar with. I understand some of those blocks and some of those hurdles, and I can't wait to be able to dive right into that.

[00:16:36] Crystal Fincher: Now, a major responsibility of your role is managing the timberlands of the state, and a very large amount of land that you are both called to manage revenue from - and maximize the revenue that you get from it - and also preserve and protect that land. How do you balance the need to produce revenue with the need to protect and preserve this land?

[00:17:06] Patrick DePoe: It goes right back to the regulations that we have in place. It goes right back to the processes where I was speaking to you about the TFW process, the adaptive management process, the Forest Practice Board. But it also goes back to making sure that the adequate voices and the needed voices are at the table to be heard. And I say that because we have the most restrictive harvest in the nation, in Washington state. I know that, but compared to private, it's not the same. We could even go to riparian protection, for example - the state has more protective riparian zones than private practices. But it's making sure that we're building those different protections in where they're needed and that we're following that process. You have a third-party scientific committee titled CMER [Cooperative Monitoring, Evaluation, and Research Committee] that helps us make some of these decisions so it's not a biased position. But then you also have to understand the perspective that I bring to this race. There's no other candidate that actually knows what this means to the folks that live this life because they're outside the box saying - This is what we think is best for you. Unfortunately, I've been saying this a little bit - I still don't like to bring it up too often - but my cousin, Gyasi Ross, gave me a call back in 2010. And he said - Patrick, I got a call and we need to head out to Forks to do some suicide prevention conversations with the high school. And I said - Pick me up, I'll meet you on the way. Just, I'll be ready. And so he picks me up, we go to Forks High School - from Forks High School, we go to Quileute High School. And we have these conversations - we meet with the teachers, we meet with the kids, we pull them aside, we have talks with the students. And unfortunately, there was spikes in suicide. Well, I know that some of those spikes are a result of folks not being able to put a roof over their head, not being able to put food on their table, not being able to give their kids the adequate things they need in order just to go to high school. And so when I talk about balance and sustainability, I understand that there is a way to do both, and that there's processes that we have that just need that attention and that, honestly, dedication to build up and strengthen. And so that we can also take those things into account - if we continue to cut too many trees, we're going backwards - we're not having the right protections in place. If we take away cutting everything, we're going backwards - because now you're talking about our public school trust, construction costs. But it's not just our public schools - it's also our hospitals, our roads, our libraries, our ports, our fire districts. But even that is a skewed statistic because I've heard folks from King County areas say that it's just a fraction of the cost that goes to our public schools. Well, it's roughly about $200 million. And you might be right - it might be a fraction of the cost that goes to the public schools in an urban area like Seattle because you have a lot of other areas that they can supplement that funding from. You get out here to Neah Bay - we're a reservation with the public schools - you're talking now 40%. You get out to other areas that are on the outskirts, you're talking 40%. Now, with COVID funding pretty much dried up and gone, you have school administrations that have to look and make decisions like - Do I fix that hole in the roof? Or do I put in a new mental health counselor that we've been wanting? Do I put the new doors that are needed for lockdowns? Or do I look for affordable housing to try to attract more teachers to our area? These are serious questions that all have to be taken into consideration, and I only know that because I lived that life. It's a difference in perspective. It's a difference in an environment. It's a difference in understanding that this isn't just a job for me - this is the life that I've been living my entire life, and it's the same for folks from our reservations and our rural communities across the state. And so when we're talking about, yes, protections - absolutely, first and foremost. But you cannot do that and forget about the people that are impacted. Because now you're impacting, unfortunately, possibly people's lives. And so it's about understanding where that balance is. And because I have that lived experience, this is something that I'm ready to jump right into.

[00:21:24] Crystal Fincher: So I heard you say that Washington has some of the most restrictive protections when it comes to conserving timber and public land. Definitely, we're very familiar with the budget challenges that school districts and public entities are going through - given that so much money does go to funding public schools and other public entities, should we be increasing the amount of revenue that we're looking to generate from our public lands?

[00:21:55] Patrick DePoe: And that is something that I'm working on right now - thinking outside the box with our current commissioner in my position that I hold right now. I'm the Tribal Relations Director for the Department of Natural Resources - I currently work at DNR. So we're looking at different ways to expand, whether it's leasing out our land in urban areas for affordable housing - that brings in more revenue to DNR. Whether it's possibly different ways that we can prioritize some of our shoreline leases, whether it's different areas that we could bring in more jobs support to bolster some of the things that are happening in our rural communities. I'm a big guy on education. I'm a big guy on trying to do whatever we can. But at the same time, I know where our limits are. And so we are a big role in that, but we can't be the sole role. And there has to be ways that we can partner with folks, there has to be ways that we can reach out, and then find different ways that we can supplement some of this funding. But at the same time, continue to do everything that we can at our level. But at the same time, like you said at the beginning, is balance. At the same time, balancing those other environmental needs. And so absolutely, we should be doing whatever we can to bring more money into our schools. Now, DNR only has so much it can do, and we are the school construction costs. But if there's other ways that other areas of schools can be impacted and affected, then those are other things that we need to explore in legislation or working directly with different partners that we can reach out to and engage with.

[00:23:19] Crystal Fincher: Now, the amount of revenue that DNR has been generating has been reducing - most of that because the amount of timber revenue that we receive from public lands has reduced. Would you be looking to maintain that reduction? Or when it comes to timber, are you also exploring potential opportunities to increase revenue there?

[00:23:41] Patrick DePoe: I am looking at all opportunities. And when I talk about the jobs in our rural communities and how that impacts their livelihoods - some of these folks, this is what they've known their whole life. And so - am I looking to put them out of house and home? No, absolutely not. But I also want to share a little bit more insight on this. If we continue in a trend that is doing away with our harvest process, we end up in a position where we still have to build homes - now we're importing timber from other areas. If we're importing timber from Canada, now we're impacting my brothers and sisters across the border that are being displaced at a rapid pace as it is, our First Nations. If we import from other states in the U.S. - well, those states don't have the same regulations that we have here in Washington. So honestly, we're increasing the climate crisis instead of what we're hoping to reduce. And in a sense, we're just doing [what] we want here, not looking at a picture from a holistic perspective. And so it really comes back to that whole sustainability and balance position - continuing to maintain, continuing to make scientific-based decisions, continuing to understand where we can increase, where we might need more protections, and then understanding the impacts that this position really has, not just on those public schools, not just on those rural communities, but of all of Washington. Because we have 2,000-plus acres that are in urban areas. And we've looked at ways to build affordable houses in those areas - we definitely need money for infrastructure. But we can play other roles - we've tried to put legislation forward that would actually help us find other ways to fund some of these childcare deserts. But being able to think outside the box takes somebody that understands what that means from a lived experience, as well as that work experience. And I say this - sort of be funny, but at the same time, I really have some truth about it - is DNR, Commissioner of Public Lands, is not like your typical elected position. Yes, you have that legislative part of it. Yes, you have that political role. But at the end of the day, it's a land management position. And you wouldn't elect somebody to OSPI that doesn't have that teaching background. You wouldn't elect an attorney general without a law degree. And this is what I've been doing my whole life. When we're talking about land management, shoreline management, fire response, working with the cities, counties, state and feds on the legislative issues - I bring all of that with me to this. And I can say that I'm the only candidate that actually has that experience, that has not been just a politician my whole life.

[00:26:28] Crystal Fincher: Now, there have been people who've raised concerns about donations that you've received from the timber industry, which is an industry that you'll be regulating. Do you think that's a valid concern, and how do you address that?

[00:26:43] Patrick DePoe: I think it's a concern that people are not reaching out to everybody. Honestly, it should be a concern that folks are so caught up and isolated on their own position that they're not talking to everybody. Yes, I've received money from some of the folks that are definitely impacted from this position. But how come nobody's talking about the folks from The Nature Conservancy that's donated to my campaign? Or nobody's talking about the folks from WCA [Washington Conservation Action] - I know who they've endorsed, but you can see members have donated to my campaign - nobody's bringing that up. And how come people are not talking about the tribal nations that have entrusted me with that endorsement? Are you saying that our tribal nations should be second-guessed? Are you saying that NGO organizations should be thought higher levels than our sovereign nations that have been here since time immemorial, stewarding these lands since time immemorial, taking care? If it wasn't for the protection of treaty rights, even today, we would not have salmon in Washington State. We would not have a lot of the protections that those treaties bring to them today that all of Washingtonians benefit from. And so when people try to focus in on - Well, Patrick has taken money. Well, of course. I've taken money from anybody that'll listen to me, sit down, and have a conversation, and feel that I'm the best person to support them because of my qualifications and my background. And it's frustrating for folks to try to demonize me because, you know what? I come from a community of 1,700 people - I don't have a stoplight in Neah Bay, a traffic jam for us is five cars. I'm from a reservation on the northwest tip of Washington - you cannot go no farther. I don't have those 10, 15-year relationships with these big PACs, these millionaires that people work with on a day-to-day basis. So I need to get my message out there. And if folks want to sit down and have a conversation with me - to accuse me that my values or my principles have been bought, that's an insult. I mean, it's not just an insult to me. It's also an insult to those people that have entrusted me to be in a position that I am right now. And I know I'm pretty passionate about this. And so I just take a breath. And so I've seen that, though, and I've seen people try to use that. And honestly, if they were willing to really listen to those nations - that they get up and say that they want to support - then why wouldn't they back me in a sense of, you know what, this is the first time that we've had a candidate at this level with this experience that is ready to hit the ground at a full sprint. Because these are the situations that people from my background get put in - there's timber companies that outlie a number of our reservations all throughout Washington State. We have partnerships. We have understandings. We have, honestly, folks in our communities that work with them. And if they're willing to say they will support a tribal candidate because of your understanding of this position - well, honestly, that helps us get our message out there. But if it's people saying that - Oh, we can't give that person any money or we can't talk to them just because of that - then that's the environmental justice aspect of it that keeps our people out of these positions to begin with because they're not giving us an opportunity or a chance to even tell our story. And so it's definitely a couple levels to that. And I don't think it does anything but definitely shows that I'm not in this position to turn my back and not have conversations with people. I believe that it shows that I'm willing to work with everybody because if we're attacking this climate crisis, if we're attacking social justice, environmental justice, economic justice, then we have to be able to talk to everybody that is directly impacted by this position. And so - no, I don't feel any type of way about this, that folks have donated to my campaign. Honestly, I wish more people would donate to my campaign, whether it be one side or the other, because you can see that my campaign, I'm definitely - they've pegged me the underdog in this race. But to see these endorsements coming in, to see the support that's building up - we've had a great month. Even in race and candidate forum, with Washington Education Association - we are being asked questions by educators - I walked out of there with the sole endorsement. People are definitely taking notice and I'm loving to see the momentum grow.

[00:31:12] Crystal Fincher: Now, there have also been concerns raised that you didn't vote in many primary or general elections before running for office. How do you address that?

[00:31:23] Patrick DePoe: I address that with the same way I just addressed the other question is - once again, you're trying to find ways to keep people from our communities out of these positions. You can look at the statistics - I'm not immune to the same kind of environment that I grew up in. The statistics will show you. But it's also about - I've voted in all of my tribal elections. I've been part of the election process. I've been an elected leader. And at the same time, when you grow up in a community and continue to look at people in these positions and you don't see representation from yourself, representation from a reservation, representation from a rural community, representation from the people that are directly impacted - that's what I'm trying to change. I understand the importance of voting. I understand it now. Absolutely. And getting into this position? That's something that I can come back and start having conversations in these high schools with these rural communities and tell them - This is why we need to do this. Unfortunately, that's not something that's been historically practiced. People come out to these small communities and have those one-on-one conversations with them. But because I'm from that community, I'm ready to do that for these communities and be able to show them there's pathways, there's ways to affect change, there's ways to affect the livelihoods in your community. And this is how you do that by voting. And I didn't know that when I was your age, but I know that now being in the position I am, and I need you to understand this. And I can't wait to have that ability to be able to start that trail.

[00:33:02] Crystal Fincher: Now I want to talk about community more and talk about what steps you plan to take to engage and empower communities who are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation, pollution, and natural resource extraction.

[00:33:19] Patrick DePoe: Once again, it comes back to the proper engagement. It comes back to the proper outreach. It comes back to making sure you have the adequate voices at the table. I was honored to be appointed one of the first co-chairs of the Environmental Justice Council, come out from the HEAL Act from - and I'll give her flowers when I can, Senator Saldaña is amazing. And she reached out while she was working on the HEAL Act, and I helped wherever I could. And then I jumped on to the Environmental Justice Council as soon as I had an ability to put my name forward. And I even told them - I don't have the time, I don't have the space to commit. Please don't elect me a chair. And they didn't hear me clearly. And so it was a unanimous vote for me to be one of the co-chairs. And as that vote happened, I made the time - because that's important to do. I made myself available - that's important to do. People that are on that council and engaged with that council have called me up to say - Patrick, I've always seen you punch above your weight because I was in some of these meetings to see you do it and you have my full support and endorsement. And I joke around about that because I'm a little bit of a heavier guy, so punching above my weight isn't always the easiest, right? But it really gets back to elevating the voices, elevating the people, and being in a position where I'm not just elevating the people, I'm one of the people - it's a whole different understanding and a whole different perspective that I bring. How is somebody going to talk about environmental justice that only reads about it or says it because it sounds like a catchy phrase? I know the other candidates in this race, and I know their voting history, and I've seen some of the things that they've done. I can't say that they've always had a 100% track record there. I can say that I know personally and intimately what it means - from my own perspective, from my own lived experience, and from my own actual work resume - I know what having a voice at the table means and the importance of having that voice at the table, especially when it impacts your lives.

[00:35:16] Crystal Fincher: Now, I want to talk about an issue that was actually in the news last year, when it was announced that a State Department of Corrections facility was about to close. And I believe the Commissioner for Public Lands expressed reservations because inmates at that facility were involved with fighting fires - turns out that DNR works with several incarcerated crews to help fight fires across the state. But those crews earn a very low wage - often less than a dollar an hour - do not get to transfer those skills in the same way that people outside do when it comes to getting out and attempting to get a career, there are sometimes challenges with safety, they don't get hazard pay. What is your perspective on using incarcerated labor? And how do you think things should continue or change in the future?

[00:36:14] Patrick DePoe: Well, I'm proud to say we're the first agency in the nation to actually provide minimum wage to these folks. And I'm actually proud that they've actually been able to get out there and help save lives, help risk their lives for people. We had a pretty big forest fire out here in my community back in 2022 at the end of November. And I was part of Incident Command, but at the same time, just being who I am - I'm in there talking with everybody - Okay, this is what's happening over here. This is what's happening over here. I'm like, all right, you guys, I got to go. I got to get a shovel, I'm going up there to the fire line, I'm going to start digging. That's just my personality, right? And so I'm up there in the hills. I have DNR helicopters over the top of us dumping water. I have trees that are falling that are on fire. And these guys are right there with us. They were, fortunately - fortunately, they were available because my house was not even a mile away from this fire, and it was coming towards our neighborhood. So myself and the tribal chairman - at the time, I took half the neighborhood, he took the other half the neighborhood. At 3 o'clock in the morning, we're pounding on doors. Everybody wake up, there's a fire down the road, and we gotta be ready. And as we're driving out, a huge tree falls in front of us. And I mean, the tree has fire on it, we can't get out. And it wasn't even a second question - snap of a finger - I jumped out and I looked at these guys. I was like - You guys ready? They started nodding their heads, grabbed their chainsaws, and we started cutting that tree up. Everybody was the cadence - One, two, three - throwing those big chunks of wood out of the road. And if they hadn't been there, we might have lost neighborhoods. If they hadn't been there, we might have lost homes. And the fact that they're willing to do and work - I've seen firsthand how hard they were working, I've seen what they felt like to be able to be out and doing something that is benefiting not just the environment, but people that are literally, lives are in danger. And so I am in support of this. I'm proud to see that we were able to increase some of those wages to these guys. And we're short-staffed too. And if this is a way for us to be able to provide more response, to be able to provide an ability to work with these folks - absolutely, I am in very strong support of it. It's similar to - I don't know if you know Dominique Davis, Dom Davis - he has recently endorsed me. And I sat down with Dom and we're having a conversation - I went to University of Washington. And small world, we know a lot of the same people. And then we're having this conversation - it's about bringing people that have that experience to try to show folks that, hey, maybe this path isn't the best path. Let me work with you - I've gone down this road, I've seen the impacts it has. Let me show you there's another way. It's the same thing within DNR, is being able to say that - I have this experience, I have this lived experience, I understand the impacts. Let me show you there's ways that we can work to better our policies. There's ways that we can work to provide more representation. There's a different perspective when you bring somebody that actually comes from that life into the conversation. And seeing some of the beautiful things he's been able to do in the Seattle area has just been amazing.

[00:39:36] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Is expanding the urban tree canopy a priority for you?

[00:39:43] Patrick DePoe: Yes, it's something else that we're currently working on right now within DNR - whether it's trying to provide a little bit more shade for some of these heat islands, whether it's being able to just bring a different kind of a environmental feel. I'm fortunate because - when I say I'm fortunate I live in Neah Bay - I can walk out my house and I look out and it's the Pacific Ocean, the Waatch River, and the Hobuck Beach on the other side. I look in my backyard and there's the Cape, Cape Flattery, and it's nothing but trees and this is a protected area. And I understand the mental and physical health that that environment can actually bring to people - you just walk out, you can feel it. But being able to provide some more of that in different areas in our urban - absolutely. It's a sad situation some folks get put into where they can't provide for themselves, they end up on the street. And now, with raising temperatures at a level that's just ridiculous, those people can't be forgot about either. So if we can do something that provides more shade - even our rivers in certain areas, like the Duwamish, for example - Duwamish is a big river that has a lot of impact with the Muckleshoot and Suquamish and those salmon runs. And being able to provide canopy up and down that river - that's still considered urban areas. But, yes, it's something that I still plan to continue and build upon, and I feel that it is very important. And there's also a couple other things that I don't want to take as thunder from him, but working with our own EJ - I love it, his name is EJ and he's our environmental justice guy - but he has some great ideas as well in DNR to build off of some of these things too. That's a different conversation though, but yeah.

[00:41:22] Crystal Fincher: Well, listeners of the show know that we are big fans of EJ Juarez.

[00:41:28] Patrick DePoe: EJ's awesome.

[00:41:29] Crystal Fincher: He really is. Now, the Department of Natural Resources is a very, very big department with several areas, lines of business, thousands of people who work for the department - it is a huge administration. What experience do you have in managing people and administration that prepares you for the role of leading this department?

[00:41:53] Patrick DePoe: Absolutely. I've managed over 400 employees for the Makah Tribe. I've worked on local levels and national levels in regards to our natural resources. I've chaired these committees and I've worked to affect legislation that has a direct impact, whether it was on our marine resources or on our resources in our terrestrial areas. When I say that I'm the most experienced - most of the candidates - has a direct report right now to our current Commissioner of Public Lands. I'm a direct report to her by RCW that lays out the Tribal Relations Director as a report to the Commissioner of Public Lands. And so I understand the grants, I understand the in-kinds, I understand employee, I understand that employee morale is huge. But I also want to point out I understand that we're also the least diverse agency in Washington State, and here, let me give you an example - I doubled our tribal employment, and I've been there for a year. Doubled. You know what that means? I hired one other Indian - that's intense. And that's not for the sake of intentional. It's just for the sake that I feel that we can do better in some of our outreach to different projects and different partners. A friend of mine I grew up with has an organization in Seattle called Young Professionals of Seattle - his name is Ahmad Corner. He does some of the outreach and recruitment, and he has some of these different things that he looks for. This is my brother. Like, this is my friend friend. This is a guy that - we went to college together. We went to Edmonds - I went to Edmonds Community College and then I went to the University of Washington. And we've known each other for the past 24+ years. And to see him grow and to see him being able to find different ways to employ our BIPOC community - those are the kind of people that I want to be able to reach out to and say - Hey, I need your help. Let's get some of these job posters out to these different areas. My cousin Gyasi - his boy, he goes to Rainier Beach - Koodzi, which if you guys ever watching basketball, you got to check out my nephew. He's amazing on the court. But being able to get to some of those high schools for job fairs - we are doing that, we are expanding that right now. We have a department that is actually dedicated to working with high schools. I work directly with there when it comes to that tribal outreach part. So it's building off of these programs. It's being able to show folks that these jobs are available, these jobs exist, there's career pathways. It's not just forestry work at DNR - it's also admin, it's also HR, it's also - I mean, the list goes on - environmental justice, we have a communications department, we have external affairs, there's uplands, there's fire response, there's so many different available opportunities. It's just about making sure people know that they're available and that we're reaching out to those communities as well. And sometimes not everybody's getting on the state website just to look to see what jobs are available because they don't think that DNR might have something that's tailored to what they're looking for. And so it's being able to create those relationships and once again, it's even something that I've seen myself growing up. It's just about being noticed and being able to show that these are out there. So let's find these ways to create these pipelines, and it's exciting.

[00:44:55] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Well, as we close today, what do you say to people who are trying to make a decision between you and your opponents? You have several of them leading up to the primary in August. What do you tell them about what makes you different and why they should support you?

[00:45:13] Patrick DePoe: Right off the bat, I would just say my experience. You talked about land management, you talked about employment - I literally have all of that experience - that's in my resume. I've led incident command centers in a sense of being that tribal leader - during COVID, especially - finding ways to think outside the box, understanding the hurdles, understanding the opportunities. I bring all that with me, but at the same time, I also want folks to - in addition to understanding that, realize that this is historical. We're trying to build a new pathway here that has never existed before and that folks need to recognize - all you can do is look up my background and you can see. You can talk to the folks that have endorsed me and you can see. Don't get caught up on somebody's rhetoric because they have a louder voice than me because of people that they've been around all their lives. Take a second and actually look into my background and you'll see that I have the qualification that's needed, I have the experiences that needed. And I have something completely different - it's also the lived experience to bring this position, to understand the issues that we're dealing with firsthand on a completely different level than any other candidate in this race. And I am the only candidate that does not need on-the-job training. I've actually been reached out by candidates in this race, and they've asked me to drop out and said that we'll create a job for you - I mean, that blows me away. But I also think that that should provide some more insight to folks of - even the other candidates know what I'm qualified to do.

[00:46:54] Crystal Fincher: Well, thank you so much for your time today. We will be following this race eagerly in the coming months and wish you the best.

[00:47:01] Patrick DePoe: And this was beautiful, Crystal. Anytime you want to have a chat, I would love to.

[00:47:07] Crystal Fincher: Thank you so much.

[00:47:09] Patrick DePoe: Have a good one.

[00:47:10] Crystal Fincher: Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks, which is produced by Shannon Cheng. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on every podcast service and app - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at and in the podcast episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.