OLYMPIA - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission took action to expand the number of big-game hunting permits available this year and reduce the cost of several types of permits during a public meeting April 11-12 in Olympia.
The commission, a citizen panel that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved those and other changes while adopting new hunting rules for the upcoming season.
The continued growth of many state deer and elk populations will support increases in the number of hunting permits issued this year, said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager.
"After a five-year stretch of mild winters, surveys show that most big game populations are stable or growing," Ware said. "That bodes well for hunting opportunities this year."
The commission approved additional permits in three key areas:
- Colockum elk herd: With the herd continuing to exceed population objectives, WDFW will increase the number special permits, primarily for antlerless elk, to 1,016 from 374.
- Yakima elk herd: The commission approved 130 additional permits for antlered elk and 1,440 for antlerless elk in response to the herd's continuing growth in central Washington.
- Northeast white-tailed deer: Buck harvest levels have increased as the herd starts to rebound from harsh winters of 2007-08. WDFW will make 120 additional antlerless special permits available this year to youth, senior, and disabled hunters.
The only significant reduction made in special permits this year is in the Mount St. Helens area, where the elk herd has reached WDFW's management objective after six years of elevated permit levels.
That strategy, designed to bring the herd into balance with available habitat, has reduced the herd by 25 to 30 percent. At WDFW's request, the commission approved a reduction of 400 permits this year.
The commission also approved a proposal to reduce fees for some special permits and tags, which were raised in 2009. Ware said WDFW proposed those reductions to encourage participation in certain hunts and address concerns raised about the cost of certain permits.
Under the new fee schedule adopted by the commission, the cost of a second-deer tag will be reduced to $43.40 from $68, while the price of a multi-season deer tag drops to $139.10 from $182.
The cost will also be reduced for second-deer "damage tags" used by hunters working with property owners with damage-prevention or kill permits.
Also approved was a proposal to streamline the process for issuing hunters with disabilities special-use permits, which enable them to use modified hunting equipment such as crossbows equipped with a scope.
In other business, the commission approved WDFW's proposal to acquire 640 acres near Wenatchee to provide a migratory corridor for deer, elk and other wildlife. Working in partnership with Chelan County and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, WDFW secured the property with funding provided by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Other transactions approved by the commission will allow WDFW to:
- Accept the transfer from the Washington State Department of Transportation of a one-acre inholding to WDFW's Oak Creek Wildlife Area near Yakima.
- Exchange three-quarters of an acre with the City of Sumner, which will allow WDFW to construct a parking lot near a water-access site on the Puyallup River.
- Acquire a pipeline easement to improve the water supply at the Aberdeen Hatchery in Grays Harbor County.
Minutes of the meeting and an audio transcript will be posted on the commission's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/.