WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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January 04, 2000
Contact: Madonna Luers (509) 456-4073 or George Tsukamoto (360) 902-2367

Public open houses Jan. 12-14 in Kennewick, Clarkston, Newport to discuss Hanford elk relocation proposals, hunting seasons

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will host public open houses January 12 - 14, 2000 in Kennewick, Clarkston, and Newport to discuss proposals for relocating surplus elk from the Hanford Reservation and proposals for the 2000-2002 hunting seasons.

The open house-format sessions for information sharing and comment gathering will run from 5 to 9 p.m. at these locations:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 12, at the Benton County Public Utilties District, 2721 West 10th Ave. in Kennewick;
  • Thursday, Jan. 13, at Heights Elementary School, 1917 4th Ave. (Appleside & 4th Avenue, near Lincoln Middle School); this session will also include information on WDFW aerial surveying and the hunting permit draw system, per local requests.
  • Friday, Jan. 14, at Stratton Elementary School, 1201 W. 5th St. in Newport (on the southwest end of town, just off Hwy. 2).
The elk population on and around the U.S. Department of Energy's Hanford nuclear site and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Arid Lands Ecology (ALE) reserve in Benton County has grown from eight animals in 1975 to over 800 today. The growing herds, mostly unchecked by hunting because of access restrictions, are now causing damage to private agricultural lands. By state law, WDFW is responsible for wildlife damage.

WDFW proposes to remove up to 500 elk over the next few years, preferably through live capture and relocation to other areas of the state where elk numbers could use a boost. The top two relocation sites identified are: 1) the Lick Creek Game Management Unit (GMU 175) in the Blue Mountains of Garfield and Asotin counties, where up to 200 elk might be released; and 2) the Selkirk (113) and 49 Degrees North (117) GMUs in Pend Oreille County, where up to 100 elk might be released.

Elk capture and relocation could get underway by late winter or early spring of 2000, with additional efforts in 2001. Further control of the Hanford elk population could be addressed through future special hunting seasons.

In addition to DOE and USFWS, WDFW is working on the proposed plan cooperatively with the U.S. Army's Yakima Firing Center (to the west of ALE), Benton, Yakima, Asotin, Garfield, and Pend Oreille county officials, the Yakama, Nez Perce, and Kalispel Indian tribes, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Inland Northwest Wildlife Council (INWC), and private landowners.

A factsheet on the Hanford elk issue and copies of the fully-detailed proposed plan are available at WDFW's headquarters in Olympia and regional offices in Yakima, Ephrata, and Spokane, or on the agency's website under "Wildlife Science." Written comments on the plan will be taken through Jan. 28, 2000.

WDFW's proposals for the 2000-2003 hunting seasons will also be available for discussion and review at the three public open houses. Copies of those proposals will be available Dec. 30, 1999 at WDFW offices or through the website. Already scheduled meetings specifically to address these season proposals will be conducted Jan. 18 - 27 in Spokane, Wenatchee, Yakima, Federal Way, Everett, Vancouver, and Aberdeen. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will make final decisions on hunting seasons at their April 7-8 meeting in Yakima, where final public comments can be made.