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OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission met in Olympia Jan. 25-27, where they held committee meetings, made decisions on fisheries management and policy, discussed fishing seasons for Deer Lake, approved forest health project proposals, adopted two species status recommendations, and considered multiple fish and wildlife petitions.
On Thursday, the Commission’s Big Tent, Habitat, Fish, and Wildlife committees met to discuss a variety of topics. During the Big Tent Committee, the Committee agreed to recommend to the full Commission that they engage in government-to-government consultation with Washington tribes about the draft Conservation Policy. Committee members also heard a presentation from Department scientists and discussed progress on the Commission’s draft Best Available Science policy. Commissioner Baker resigned as chair of the Big Tent Committee, and the Committee unanimously elected Commissioner Lehmkuhl as the Committee’s new Chair.
In Thursday’s Wildlife Committee meeting, committee members discussed the timeline and reviewed the process for game management planning and rule making about bear and cougar hunting seasons. Fish Committee members heard briefings from staff and discussed fisheries data and updates about Friday agenda items, including an update on North of Falcon policy development. Thursday’s agenda concluded with the Habitat Committee meeting, where committee members heard briefings on hydraulic project approval (HPA) rule making for dock flotation and the Washington Shrubsteppe Restoration and Resiliency Initiative strategy, including the availability of the draft document for public comment. Committee members also heard a presentation from partners involved with the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan and discussed an approach for a potential land transaction in Kittitas county.
On Friday, the meeting began with affirmation by the full Commission that they would engage in government-to-government consultation with tribes about the draft Conservation Policy. Friday morning included an open public input opportunity and a report from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind.
Next, the Commission voted to adopt the updated North of Falcon policy developed by WDFW staff. After a briefing by WDFW staff about Columbia River fisheries management, the Commission delegated rule making for Columbia River commercial logbooks to the WDFW director. Commissioners also delegated to the WDFW director the task of working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife director to adopt concurrent fishing regulations in jointly managed waters of the Columbia River in 2024.
The Commission also decided on three public petitions. The Commission voted to deny a petition about Olympic Peninsula winter steelhead fishing, and WDFW staff committed to meet with petitioners to collaborate on the topic and discuss ideas brought forward in the petition. Commissioners also voted to deny a petition about Marine Area 13 crabbing and petition and about black bear management proposals.
On Friday, the Commission also met about three rule making topics. First, the Commission heard a briefing from WDFW staff about rule making for a proposed year-round fishing season at Deer Lake. The Commission also voted to maintain Washington endangered species status for the mardon skipper butterfly and the northern spotted owl.
Friday’s agenda ended with the Commission discussing the process they will take to respond to direction from the governor to undertake rule making to guide when wolves can be lethally removed in response to conflict with livestock. The Commission agreed to discuss the matter further in Executive Committee and return to WDFW staff with an update on how they would like to proceed.
Saturday’s agenda began with an open public input opportunity, followed by a briefing and decision on proposed forest management projects. The Commission voted to approve both projects, which are designed to improve forest health and wildlife habitat on WDFW managed lands. The Commission then held a meeting debrief and conducted future meeting planning before adjourning the January meeting.
The meeting was recorded and is available on the Commission webpage for the public to watch at their convenience.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is a panel appointed by the governor that sets policy for WDFW. WDFW works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife, and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.