OLYMPIA - Two men from North Bend have been named citizen Volunteers of the Year for 2010 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) for their help in monitoring and managing a growing elk herd in the upper Snoqualmie Valley.
Jim Gildersleeve and Harold Erland, both leaders of the Upper Snoqualmie Valley Elk Management Group, will receive the award from WDFW Director Phil Anderson during a special presentation June 2 at the department’s regional office in Mill Creek.
Earlier this month, WDFW named Icicle Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited its 2010 Organization of the Year for the group’s contributions in areas ranging from salmon recovery to kids’ fishing events.
In presenting the Volunteer of the Year awards, WDFW will recognize Gildersleeve and Erland for resolving community concerns raised by a herd of 350 to 400 elk in and around the towns of North Bend and Snoqualmie.
Gildersleeve was a founding member of the Upper Snoqualmie Valley Elk Management Group, created in 2008 to work with WDFW to address elk-damage, public safety and other issues related to the growth in the area elk herd. As a leader of that organization, he helped to raise funds for essential research and worked with WDFW to coordinate permit-only hunts to reduce the size of the herd.
Erland, a volunteer research biologist for the group, has worked closely with WDFW to determine the size and age structure of the herd. As part of his research, he has coordinated the capture and marking of 34 elk and leads monthly discussions with area residents to discuss herd-management strategies.
"It can present a real management challenge when a growing elk herd starts pushing into populated areas," Anderson said. "In this case, however, our Volunteers of the Year not only helped to unify area residents, but worked side-by-side with department biologists toward a mutual, scientifically sound solution."
The Icicle Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited, one of 400 Trout Unlimited chapters across the nation, has also worked effectively to blend community involvement with fish management, Anderson said.
Since 1984, WDFW’s Organization of the Year has raised millions of dollars for salmon recovery, sponsored dozens of kids’ fishing derbies, built a fishing platform on the Icicle River that accommodates people with disabilities, championed salmon-acclimation facilities on the White River and sponsored a climate-change workshop to raise awareness of the issue.
"To say this group is active in protecting and promoting our natural resources is an understatement," Anderson said. "For nearly 30 years, this organization has been involved in everything from improving hatchery practices to teaching kids how to bait a hook. We thank them for the commitment they’ve shown all these years."