OLYMPIA-The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted new rules to address property damage and other problems caused by wildlife, at a public video-conference meeting today in Olympia and Spokane.
The nine-member citizen commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), considered public comments taken in previous meetings on the proposed rules that provide assistance for landowners and clarify their options in handling wildlife damage to crops and livestock.
Over the past year, WDFW staff developed the wildlife-damage rules in conjunction with a broad-based citizens' group, including commercial growers and livestock owners. The rules provide property owners with greater flexibility to prevent and mitigate damage while maintaining healthy wildlife populations.
Several changes were made in the final rules, in response to public input heard by the commission in April. The modified provisions allow for:
- Sharing the cost of crop value adjustors between WDFW and landowners submitting damage claims
- Dropping a $500 deductible on small claims
- Dropping a requirement that public hunting be used to address livestock depredation problems
- Reducing the minimum amount for livestock claims to $500
The adopted rules are posted on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/rules
Today's commission meeting was conducted by video-conference in Olympia and Spokane, to reduce travel costs for commissioners and WDFW staff.
In other action, the commission approved four land transactions to protect fish and wildlife habitat and expand public recreational opportunities.
Lands to be acquired by WDFW are:
- A 99-acre parcel of upland habitat in Grays Harbor County, adjacent to WDFW's Johns River Wildlife Area southwest of Aberdeen, in settlement for inadvertent timber harvest on WDFW lands by the Weyerhaeuser Company.
- Shrub-steppe habitat totaling 748 acres east of Oroville, in Okanogan County. The acquisition-paid for with Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grant funds-is the third and final phase of a 5,738-acre acquisition.
- Two acres known as the Ness property on Leque Island in Snohomish County. The purchase of the in-holding in WDFW's Leque Island Wildlife Unit, is being conducted with grant funds from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board.
A 448-acre conservation easement on the Hundley property along the Yakima River in Kittitas County was also approved to protect riparian habitat used as a migratory corridor for elk, deer and other wildlife.
The commission also heard staff briefings and received public comments on three issues that will be considered for action at the August commission meeting in Olympia:
- Proposed amendments to state falconry rules to align them with recently adopted federal regulations
- A proposal to prohibit possession of lead shot on two properties in the Chehalis River Valley in Grays Harbor County, to reduce the risk of wildlife health issues associated with lead shot ingestion.
- A proposal to repeal game reserve status for the Bayview Game Reserve in Skagit County, in order to increase hunter access to the shoreline. The game reserve was established in 1983 for brant geese that no longer frequent the site. WDFW staff plan to work with landowners in the current reserve area to establish regulated hunting access, with established blinds that would be available for wildlife viewing when the waterfowl hunting season is closed.