OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has cleared the way to adding 6,357 acres of mixed forestland and shrub-steppe to the Oak Creek Wildlife Area near Yakima.
The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved purchase of the property in the Tieton River Canyon along with two other land transactions at a public meeting here Oct. 6-7.
Located approximately 25 miles northwest of Yakima, the Tieton River property will become part of the 50,000-acre Oak Creek Wildlife Area, owned and managed by WDFW. The area provides habitat for Rocky Mountain elk, California bighorn sheep, golden eagles and other wildlife.
“Adding this land to the Oak Creek Wildlife Area increases preserved habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife,” said Ron Ozment, commission chair, who noted that the new parcel was purchased with assistance from the Nature Conservancy.
The commission also approved land transactions in Kittitas and Mason counties.
In other action, the commission approved a proposal that limits the use of catch record cards for Dungeness crab to Puget Sound. The previous rule required crabbers to obtain a catch record card to fish for Dungeness crab anywhere in the state.
The commission also received briefings by WDFW staff on a variety of issues, including 39 sportfishing rules proposed for adoption for the 2007-08 fishing season. The proposed rules – which range from prohibiting green sturgeon retention statewide to expanding a catch-and-release fishery in the Skagit River – will be the subject of a public hearing at the commission meeting scheduled Nov. 3-4 in Vancouver, Wash.
Additional information about the rule proposals and the upcoming meeting is available on the WDFW website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/index.htm) and from the commission office (360-902-2449).
At the Olympia meeting, the commission also heard staff reports on:
- Razor clam population assessment surveys, which show an increase in razor clam populations south of Grays Harbor and a decrease farther north of the coast compared to last year.
- Development of draft wildlife area plans for 28 wildlife areas managed by WDFW.
- A pilot grazing program, which uses managed livestock to maintain and enhance habitat conditions for wildlife.
- The coastal Dungeness crab fishery.
- A proposal to the 2007 state Legislature to increase funding for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which has helped WDFW and other organizations purchase critical habitat for endangered and threatened species and added thousands of acres to Washington’s wildlife areas.
- Pilot spring black bear damage hunts in western Washington and Project Black Bear, which focuses on bear populations, forest management and public education.
- The impacts of mineral prospecting and mining on fish and fish habitat.
- WDFW’s hunter education programs and a measure approved during the last legislative session to provide new incentives for volunteer instructors.
During the meeting, Chairman Ozment and WDFW Director Jeff Koenings presented an award to Kirkland resident James Kramer for 50 years of continuous service as an instructor in the state’s hunter-education program.
“We estimate James Kramer has shared his knowledge about firearm safety and hunter ethics with nearly 2,700 students during that time,” said Mik Mikitik, who manages WDFW’s hunter education program. “That is an enormous contribution.”