2011 Land Line News Notes

“Land Line” News Notes are produced for e-mail distribution about 10 times a year to provide information about department land management on both public and private land for fish and wildlife habitat needs and for recreation such as hunting, wildlife watching, fishing, camping, hiking, and boating.

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Grass restorationDecember 2011

Shrub-steppe/grassland restoration manual now available

Landowners and managers who want to restore weedy, compacted, eroded or otherwise damaged acreage to grassland or shrub-steppe now have a new resource available.

The Shrub-Steppe and Grassland Restoration Manual for the Columbia River Basin

was recently completed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and with funding from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).

The idea, says compiler and co-author Richard Tveten, a WDFW biologist with the Lands Program in Olympia headquarters, is to share knowledge gained by both private and public land owners and managers and “capitalize on the experience of others.”

The manual, available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01330/, provides specific recommendations relating to weed control, site preparation, species selection, planting, scheduling and equipment. Tools include a seedling identification guide, a seed mix calculator, and seed drill calibrator to help plant the right amount of desired species and recognize them when they sprout.

The plant information covers native species that are commonly used on, or that have been known to colonize, restoration sites like bluebunch wheatgrass, Great Basin wildrye, arrowleaf balsamroot and buckwheat.  Also covered are introduced weeds that commonly occur and can threaten the success of restoration projects.

“The definition we use for ‘restoration’ is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed,” Tveten said. “Restoration attempts to return an ecosystem to its historic trajectory. Restoration projects require no attendance once they are mature.”

Tveten said that while full restoration may be ideal, practical limitations to obtain or successfully grow native plants, exclude invasive species, or allow the return of historic processes often results in more of a “rehabilitation” project.

“We define ‘rehabilitation’ as the reparation of ecosystem processes, productivity and services,” he said. “It’s not necessarily a return to pre-existing conditions and it may require some attendance once plants are mature.”

Tveten says the need for the manual was recognized when veterans of restoration projects, like former WDFW land manager Jerry Benson, approached retirement.

“These professionals had accumulated decades of hard-earned knowledge, mainly through trial and error,” Tveten said.  “But this anecdotal information had never been compiled or widely disseminated. We didn’t want to lose this body of knowledge and experience, so the manual was developed for new land managers to ensure more successful and cost-effective habitat restoration projects in the future.”

Tveten says the manual was created for use by both novices and more experienced land managers. It is organized to answer questions like:

  • What should I do with a degraded site?
  • What do I have to work with now, both good and bad?  
  • What was the historical condition?
  • What is a site capable of becoming?
  • What do I want the site to look like?
  • How do I go about restoring a site?
  • Do I need to clean the slate, and if so, how do I go about doing so?
  • How do I kill weeds without harming desirable vegetation?
  • How do I increase diversity?
  • What should I plant and how?

A case history library link is available showing past WDFW projects as examples. Those who develop restoration projects are encouraged to use provided forms to document their own experiences to share them with others through the library.

The Shrub-Steppe and Grassland Restoration Manual for the Columbia River Basin is intended to be a work in progress, and will be updated periodically as new information becomes available. 

September 2011

Some hunters may need the new Discover Pass

Some hunters may need the new Discover PassWith some hunting seasons getting underway in the month of September, and scouting activity picking up for opportunities later this fall, Washington hunters who use state owned and managed land need to know where the new Discover Pass is needed.

The Discover Pass is a vehicle access pass for nearly 3 million acres of Washington state recreation lands managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Washington State Parks and Recreation (State Parks).

Purchase of a Washington big game or small game hunting license, or a Western Washington pheasant permit, includes a free vehicle access pass to the nearly one million acres of WDFW lands, which can be found by county and wildlife area at  http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/ . This WDFW vehicle access pass is not valid on State Park or DNR lands.

Hunting is allowed on more than two million acres of state trust lands managed by DNR, but hunters will need the Discover Pass to park on the larger,developed blocks of state land, identified by signs and on maps and lists available at www.dnr.wa.gov/recreation.    

Hunters do not need a Discover Pass to hunt on the scattered small parcels (less than 1,000-acres) of undeveloped DNR-managed land, mostly in the southeastern part of the state.

Hunting is not allowed on Washington state park lands.

Purchase of a Discover Pass helps keep all of these state recreation lands available by funding maintenance of hiking trails, trailheads, campgrounds and garbage collection, providing security, and addressing vandalism .

An annual pass costs $30, or $35 with transaction and dealer fees if purchased at a license dealer, by phone or online.  A one-day pass costs $10, or $11.50 with transaction and dealer fees if purchased at a license dealer, by phone or online.

For more information about the Discover Pass, including how to purchase it, where it’s required, and what exemptions apply, see www.discoverpass.wa.gov.

July 2011

Counties receive tax payments from WDFW

Methow ValleyEarlier this year WDFW completed annual payments to 31 of Washington’s 39 counties totaling $1,581,106.18 for Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and local assessments on WDFW-owned land.

The PILT totaled $1,227,183.96 to 14 counties covering 496,414.86 acres of WDFW-owned land. Assessments totaled $353,922.22 to 28 counties for weed control, fire protection, storm water control, irrigation, and other services provided by lake management districts and conservation districts.

Each county can either retain game violation fines and forfeitures collected by WDFW within the county, or elect to receive in lieu taxes on WDFW property of at least 100 contiguous acres. (PILT is not paid on department buildings, structures, facilities, game farms, fish hatcheries, tidelands, or public fishing areas of less than 100 acres.)

Most counties that have significant WDFW acreage choose to receive the in lieu payments. In most cases, the payments are equivalent to or more than counties would receive if the property was privately owned and held in open space classification for agriculture or forestry activities.

By state law (Revised Code of Washington 77.12.203), counties electing to collect PILT have their choice of three rates. They may: 1) collect an amount equal to that amount paid on similar parcels of private land held in open space tax classification or 2) collect 70 cents per acre or 3) collect the amount paid in 1984 on property WDFW owned prior to that year, unless 70 cents per acre is greater than that older rate. The open space and 1984 rates vary from county to county.

The table shown here lists all the counties with the number of acres eligible for (more than 100 contiguous acres) and elected by the county for PILT. Total acres listed are as of June 30, 2010. Acres controlled but not owned by WDFW are not eligible for taxes or assessments.

County Pilt


Assessments Grand
Adams $2,531.00 860.00 $15,327.97 $17,858.97
Asotin $38,266.87 33,646.25 $0.00 $38,266.87
Benton $0.00   $3,393.62 $3,393.62
Chelan $50,810.38 26,552.09 $930.53 $51,740.91
Clallam $0.00   $1,981.69 $1,981.69
Clark $0.00   $8,882.80 $8,882.80
Columbia $7,889.28 11,270.38 $1,694.74 $9,584.02
Cowlitz $0.00   $742.32 $742.32
Ferry $6,781.33 6,866.13 $992.16 $7,773.49
Franklin $0.00   $4,346.55 $4,346.55
Garfield $4,853.98 6,934.26 $554.74 $5,408.72
Grant $37,443.16 39,076.00 $31,244.54 $68,687.70
Grays Harbor $7,264.14 3,248.00 $0.00 $7,264.14
King $0.00   $40,373.10 $40,373.10
Kitsap $0.00   $1,615.74 $1,615.74
Kittitas $130,884.80 170,235.89 $12,360.17 $143,244.97
Klickitat $41,586.43 13,638.43 $789.15 $42,375.58
Lincoln $13,535.41 19,339.50 $2,323.46 $15,858.87
Mason $0.00   $485.00 $485.00
Okanogan $479,889.57 76,649.50 $17,620.10 $497,509.67
Pacific $0.00   $988.40 $988.40
Pend Orielle $5,358.18 3,598.22 $0.00 $5,358.18
Pierce $0.00   $9,737.81 $9,737.81
San Juan $0.00   $27.05 $27.05
Skagit $0.00   $40,202.19 $40,202.19
Snohomish $0.00   $46,989.59 $46,989.59
Spokane $0.00   $1,808.80 $1,808.80
Thurston $0.00   $46,486.80 $46,486.80
Walla Walla $0.00   $12.00 $12.00
Whatcom $0.00   $1,205.70 $1,205.70
Yakima $400,089.43 84,500.21 $60,805.50 $460,894.93
Totals $1,227,183.96 496,414.86 $353,922.22 $1,581,106.18

Counties with WDFW acreage that show no payment have either chosen to retain game violation fines rather than receive PILT, or have not billed the agency for service assessments.  Variations in the taxes per listed acreages may indicate that not all acres are taxed and/or that not all are computed at the same rate. Assessments vary from county to county.

May 2011

Get a Discover PassNew Discover Pass will help keep recreation lands operating

Washington’s new Discover Pass will help keep Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) lands open for recreation, despite reductions in state General Fund support.

Legislation creating the Discover Pass was introduced by state Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-San Juan Islands), passed by the 2011 Legislature and signed into law May 12 by Gov. Chris Gregoire. The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, WDFW and the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) jointly requested legislation that led to the creation of the Discover Pass.

During the bill signing, Gov. Gregoire described the Discover Pass as "a solution that allows us to help keep our state recreation lands open and accessible during the worst budget crisis in the state’s history."

The Discover Pass will cost $30 per year or $10 per day for vehicle access to recreation land and water-access sites managed by WDFW, DNR and State Parks.

The pass will be required as of July 1, and will go on sale in mid-June at nearly 600 retail outlets statewide that sell hunting and fishing licenses. It also will be available for purchase online at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/ or by calling toll free 1-866-320-9933. Beginning next fall, the pass also may be purchased when renewing a vehicle license through the state Department of Licensing.

Holders of certain types of hunting and fishing licenses will not need a Discover Pass for access to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recreation lands and boat launches; instead a Vehicle Access Pass for WDFW recreation lands and water access will be issued free with purchase of a big-game or small-game hunting license, western Washington pheasant permit, trapping license, or saltwater or freshwater or combination recreational fishing license. Fishers and hunters will need a Discover Pass for access to state parks and DNR’s designated recreation areas, sites, trailheads and parking areas. The Discover Pass will not be needed to access undesignated DNR lands.

Details on other exemptions to Discover Pass requirements are detailed at the Discover Pass website at www.discoverpass.wa.gov

“Fishers and hunters already support WDFW recreation lands through their license fees, and that contribution was recognized in the legislation by waiving the Discover Pass requirement for most fishers and hunters on WDFW lands,” said Jennifer Quan, WDFW’s land manager.

WDFW also will honor current Vehicle Use Permits on WDFW lands through next March 31.  However, current VUP holders will need to purchase a separate Discover Pass for access to other state recreation lands after July 1.

Revenue from the Discover Pass will be split among the three state agencies in proportion to their need for General Fund replacement— 84 percent to State Parks; 8 percent to WDFW; and 8 percent to DNR.

In addition to providing a stable source of land operation revenue, the legislation provides reciprocal authority for law enforcement staff from each agency, to improve public safety and help protect state resources.

For more information on the 840,000-plus acres of land and 700 water-access sites managed by WDFW visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/ .

Mineral Lake accessMarch 2011

Some wildlife lands and boat launches face closure under state budget shortfall

The statewide revenue shortfall is threatening a host of important state services, including state wildlife lands and water-access sites.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Department of Natural Resources and State Parks and Recreation Commission are collaborating to support proposed legislation that would create a recreation land user fee to supplant lost state General Fund support and maintain public access to state recreation lands.

The proposed measures, Senate Bill 5622, introduced by Sen. Kevin Ranker, and House Bill 1796, introduced by Representative Kevin Van De Wege, are still under consideration in the Legislature.

The proposed bills would create an access pass—known as the Discover Pass—for use of all state recreation lands managed by WDFW, State Parks and DNR. The Discover Pass would cost $30 per year or $10 for a single day pass. Those purchasing certain fishing or hunting licenses could purchase a $7 annual pass for use solely on WDFW lands and water-access sites. Campers who pay for a State Parks campsite would not be required to purchase the Discover Pass and volunteers who provide 24 hours of service to any of the state agencies could receive a complimentary pass.

The Discover Pass is vitally needed to avert steep reductions in wildlife land operations and recreational access. It would provide an estimated $5.5 million for WDFW recreation lands in the coming biennium, an identical amount of support for DNR recreation lands, and $60 million for State Parks. The proposed Discover Pass revenue allocation reflects what is needed simply to maintain current operations.

The reduction proposed in the Governor’s budget comes on the heels of other budget reductions. Since 2009, WDFW lands operation and maintenance has lost one fifth of its state funding. As General Fund support has declined, WDFW has been forced to turn to hunting and fishing license revenue to maintain recreational access. In essence, hunters and fishers are subsidizing other, non-paying users of WDFW lands.

The Discover Pass proposal is consistent with the Governor’s suggestion that agencies adopt a user-pay model to maintain services that can no longer be supported through the state General Fund. The Discover Pass would allow all users—hikers, campers, equestrians, wildlife watchers, boaters and others—to share the cost of maintaining and operating state recreation lands.

Since the final outcome of the Discover Pass proposal is uncertain, lawmakers have asked WDFW what recreation land and boat launch service reductions would be necessary if the proposal is not successful.

In response, WDFW has developed criteria to guide the determination of permanent or seasonal closures on wildlife areas and water access sites that may become necessary if funding solutions are not found. Closure means that land management—such as toilet pumping, garbage removal and weed management—would not occur and that the areas would be closed to public access.

Final wildlife area and boat launch closure decisions would depend on the state budget that is adopted by the Legislature, and would be subject to a public process and consideration by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The criteria  for assessing wildlife areas and water-access sites for potential closure follows the Governor’s “user pays” direction, and is aimed at maximizing fishing and hunting use, since recreational licenses revenues currently provide the majority of WDFW’s land operating funds.

The criteria to evaluate wildlife areas for possible closure are:

  • Level of weed management required, based on current conditions and the presence of agriculture or ranching activity
  • Percentage of critical wildlife habitat
  • Cost of maintaining recreational access
  • Amount of annual use for licensed activities such as fishing, hunting and trapping
  • Amount of other types of recreation
  • Access control (number of roads adjacent to or passing through the wildlife area)
  • Annual maintenance cost per acre
  • Restrictions associated with grant funding or contract obligations

The criteria to evaluate boat launches/water-access sites for potential closure are:

  • Maintenance costs (grading, toilet pumping, ramp upkeep, vandalism clean up, enforcement)
  • Amount of annual use for licensed activities such as fishing, hunting and trapping
  • Amount of use for non-licensed recreation
  • Presence of access-control points (gates)
  • Availability of alternate, nearby public access sites
  • Restrictions associated with grant funding or contract obligations

Contemplating possible closure of public recreation lands is a difficult and troubling prospect. We are working closely with our sister agencies and state leaders to try to avert such closures.