OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has scheduled two informational open houses to discuss with the public the development of a proposed hunting management agreement with the Point Elliott Treaty tribes for 2008-09.
The public meetings are scheduled for May 27 in Mount Vernon at the Skagit County Administration Building, 700 South 2nd St., and May 28 in Edmonds at the Edmonds City Hall, 121 5th Ave. North. Both meetings are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
WDFW wildlife managers and enforcement officers will be available at each open house to discuss the proposed one-year agreement, which would be designed to improve state and tribal wildlife management of game species in eastern Puget Sound and a portion of the Kitsap Peninsula.
“The goal is to reach agreement on a plan that would help define management objectives, coordinate enforcement and improve the sharing of information between the state and Point Elliott Treaty tribes,” said Nate Pamplin, WDFW wildlife policy coordinator.
Indian tribes that signed the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott include the Lummi Nation, the Muckleshoot Tribe, the Nooksack Tribe, the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe, the Stillaguamish Tribe, the Suquamish Tribe, the Swinomish Tribe, the Tulalip Tribes and the Upper Skagit Tribe.
Last year, WDFW and the Point Elliott Treaty tribes signed an agreement that allowed the harvest of up to 30 bull elk, divided between state and tribal hunters, in the fall of 2007 in Game Management Unit 418 (Nooksack). State hunters took 14 bull elk during that season and tribal hunters harvested 13.
Continuing that elk hunt this fall could be part of the proposed management agreement, although the plan would primarily involve improving the sharing of regulations and harvest information throughout several game management units in eastern Puget Sound and a portion of the Kitsap Peninsula.
After several years of joint recovery work by WDFW and Point Elliott Treaty tribes, the once-depleted Nooksack elk herd has grown in numbers large enough to allow for limited hunting.
Since 2003, state and tribal wildlife managers have relocated about 80 elk from the Mount St. Helens area to the Nooksack River watershed. Efforts to rebuild the herd also included projects to improve elk forage and a decade-long moratorium on hunting. The herd has rebounded from a low of about 300 animals to between 600 and 700 today.
The Nooksack herd, one of 10 in Washington state, ranges in scattered groups near the south fork of the Nooksack River.
“Through our joint effort to rebuild the Nooksack elk herd, we were able to allow both state and tribal hunters a great opportunity last fall in GMU 418,” said Pamplin. “We hope to build on that success and continue to improve wildlife management in Washington.”