The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the 2015-2021 Game Management Plan after an extensive public process.
The management plan outlines strategies to address a variety of issues, including:
• Hunter recruitment and retention – Establish a new citizen advisory group to help identify and implement methods to encourage greater participation in hunting.
• Predator/prey interactions – Follow new guidelines to help depressed deer and elk herds that are below population objectives due to predation by black bears, cougars, bobcats or coyotes.
• Access to private timberlands – Work with private timberland owners to develop programs that maintain recreational access to their properties while minimizing direct costs to hunters.
• Wolf recovery – Continue to follow the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, and work with the wolf advisory group to develop a new plan to manage wolves after they are no longer listed for protection.
• Non-toxic ammunition – Consult with hunters to develop voluntary programs that reduce the use of lead ammunition, which can poison raptors and other birds that may ingest spent ammunition when feeding on the carcasses of animals that were shot.
The final plan will be posted in the next week on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01657/.
In other business, the commission conducted a public hearing on draft options for a new policy to address conservation and fishery objectives for Willapa Bay salmon fisheries. State fishery managers plan to develop additional draft options in the next few weeks.
Key principles of the draft policy include:
- Promoting the conservation and restoration of salmon and steelhead by working with partners, such as the Regional Fishery Enhancement Groups, to protect and restore habitat productivity, implement hatchery reform, and manage fisheries consistent with conservation objectives.
- Developing fishing opportunities that are fairly distributed across fishing areas and reflect the diverse interests of fishers.
- Structuring recreational and WDFW-managed commercial fisheries to minimize conflicts between the two gear types.
- Seeking to enhance the overall economic well-being and stability of Willapa Bay fisheries.
- Ensuring salmon management is timely, well documented, transparent, well communicated, and accountable.
To review the current draft policy options, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/willapa_bay_salmon/.
The commission is scheduled to hold another public hearing on draft policy options during its January meeting, and is tentatively scheduled to make a final decision in February.
Also during the December meeting, the commission held a public hearing on proposed sportfishing rule changes. The rules are specific to the mainstem Columbia River, its tributaries and lakes within the basin.
The proposals – which cover fishing seasons, daily limits and other rules – are available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/. The commission is scheduled to take action on the proposals during its January meeting.
The commission also discussed the recruitment for a new director of WDFW. Commissioners completed an initial set of interviews for the position last week, and are scheduled to consider hiring a new director during their meeting in January.
The current director, Phil Anderson, announced in August he is resigning from his position at the end of the year. However, at the commission’s request, he has agreed to remain on as the head of the agency until a new director is in place.
In other news, Rollie Schmitten, whose term as a commissioner expires at the end of the year, announced he is not seeking reappointment. However, he said will remain on the commission until a new director is hired.