OLYMPIA – Hunters got a preview of changes proposed in special-hunt permit drawings and new hunting regulations for the fall 2010 season at a public meeting held here March 12-13 by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.
State wildlife managers also briefed the commission and others in attendance on new proposals for addressing public concerns about property damage and other conflicts related to Washington’s wildlife.
The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), allotted time for public comments on all three issues as a prelude to voting on those proposals at public meetings scheduled over the next two months.
On a separate issue, the commission directed WDFW to analyze options for increasing recreational crabbing opportunities in Puget Sound. With a stated goal of adopting a new crab-allocation policy by October, commissioners established a timeline for assessing the effects of various fishing options, meeting with advisory boards and providing opportunities for public review of their plans.
Special-hunt permit drawings
In recent years, some hunters have expressed dissatisfaction with the selection process used to issue special-hunt permits, which give successful applicants hunting options beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.
Many of those frustrations stem from the fact that all special-hunt permits are randomly drawn from the same pool of applications, said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager. As a result, applicants often face a choice between applying for popular deer and elk hunts or settling for less-popular hunts with better odds of being drawn, he said.
Under a new plan Ware outlined for the commission, WDFW would create separate applications for seven different categories of popular deer and elk permits, ranging from buck or bull hunts to senior permits. Hunters could apply in as many categories as they choose.
“This plan is designed to give hunters more options for getting the special permits they really want,” said Ware, noting that the proposal was developed with broad public input and support from the WDFW’s Game Management Advisory Committee.
Under the new plan, “points” accrued by hunters toward special permits in previous years would be applied to each of the new permit categories created under the new plan, Ware said. All funds raised by the sale of additional permit applications would be used to expand hunter access to private lands.
The commission is scheduled to take action on WDFW’s proposal at a meeting set April 9-10 in Leavenworth. The proposed rule changes are contained in WAC 232-28-291 on the department’s website at http://bit.ly/d3a41n.
Changes in hunting regulations
WDFW is also proposing some new hunting rules for the upcoming season, based on changes in state game populations observed since the current three-year hunting plan was adopted last year. Proposed changes for the fall season include new conservation measures and hunting opportunities for species such as deer, elk, black bear, cougar and small game. Key actions include:
- Deer: Significant reductions are proposed in the harvest of antlerless white-tailed deer in the Selkirk region, hard-hit by two harsh winters, and on the northern end of the Olympic Peninsula, where the herd continues to have low reproduction rates.
- Elk: General hunting opportunities for antlerless elk would be reduced on the Yakima herd, although new hunting opportunities would be allowed in Game Management Unit 346.
- Black bear: Fall hunting seasons would be delayed in parts of northeast Washington, south central Washington and the Okanogan region to reduce harvest and conserve female bears. Spring hunting opportunities would be expanded in northeastern Washington and in private timberlands west of Centralia to allow the harvest of more males.
- Hunting equipment: Archers and muzzleloaders would no longer be required to possess a concealed weapons license to carry a handgun for personal protection in the field.
Specific proposals are posted on the commission’s website at http://bit.ly/d3a41n under “March 5 revisions.” The commission is scheduled to take action on WDFW’s proposals for the 2010 hunting season at its April 9-10 meeting in Leavenworth.
In a related issue, the commission denied a petition to amend existing white-tailed buck deer seasons in northeastern Washington by adopting special antler restrictions for hunts in Game Management Units 117 and 121. The commission did, however, commit to a public review process and consideration of the proposal for the 2011-12 hunting seasons.
Controlling property damage
Another proposal presented to the commission would give landowners more flexibility to prevent and address property damage caused by wildlife.
A new approach proposed by WDFW would encourage landowners to forge agreements with the department that set out a clear course of action for dealing with damages caused by wildlife on their property. Those rules would establish specific requirements for both lethal and non-lethal actions, and identify new sources of technical assistance for property owners.
Under the department’s proposal, claims for crop damage would be paid only after an assessment by a professional crop insurance adjustor.
The commission is expected to take action on WDFW’s proposal during a conference call scheduled May 7. The proposed “Wildlife Interaction Rules” are posted on the commission’s website at http://bit.ly/db1aCT.
Also at the meeting March 12-13 in Olympia, the commission:
- Extended the current allocation policy for the non-tribal Columbia River summer chinook fishery by one year.
- Received a briefing on 2010 salmon forecasts, conservation needs and fishing opportunities.
- Approved the purchase of a 369-acre conservation easement and two properties to benefit wildlife in Okanogan County.