SPOKANE -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has removed a proposal for special permit hunting of elk on Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge from its 2009 hunting season recommendations because of a delay in the federal approval process.
Kevin Robinette, a WDFW regional wildlife manager, said a proposal to include 63 special elk-hunting permits for the refuge in southwest Spokane County has been withdrawn from the list of statewide hunting seasons scheduled for adoption by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at its April 3-4 meeting in Olympia.
The controlled permit hunts were proposed to help address the increasing destruction of aspen and other native vegetation by a growing number of elk on the refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which manages the refuge, has documented the loss of vegetation for several years. Using aerial surveys, state and federal wildlife biologists have also documented growth in the elk herd during the same period.
The proposal to allow limited elk hunting on the refuge to reduce elk numbers went through an extensive federal public review process, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The proposal gained local support from refuge users, both hunters and non-hunters, Robinette said.
But the proposal is not yet final because of delays in the federal rule-making process for hunting regulations, explained Lisa Langelier, Project Leader of the USFWS Inland Northwest National Wildlife Refuge Complex, including Turnbull.
Langelier is optimistic that the proposal will be finalized this year, but possibly not until this summer.
Although the hunts were not scheduled to begin until fall, WDFW’s special hunting permit application deadline is May 20, 2009. If WDFW had left the Turnbull hunts in the special-permit choices and the final federal approval did not occur, those applicants drawn for a Turnbull hunt would not be eligible for other elk hunting permits, Robinette explained.
“This is an unfortunate delay, but we don’t want disappointed elk hunters this fall,” he said. “We are confident we will be able to offer this opportunity next year.”
The proposed 63 permits, one for a bull elk and all others for antlerless elk, were divided among modern firearm, muzzleloader, archery, disabled, and master hunters in separate hunts from September through December.