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Vail Tree Farm Closure Possible ‘Death Knell’ To Hunting, Says Local Writer

Eatonville Dispatch outdoor writer Bob Brown says that Weyerhaeuser’s decision to limit access to the Vail Tree Farm earlier this year to a limited number of permit holders “may have been the death knell to hunting in western Washington as we know it today.”

I don’t know that I’d go that far, but certainly the change warrants coverage. We wrote about the issue in our July issue and on our blog in three separate posts, the subject caught the attention of national outdoor magazine Outdoor Life, and Brown was following up as the new policy goes into effect on the Chehalis-area tree farm as well as the Pe Ell Tree Farm this Thursday, Aug. 1.

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The 1,400 permits available in total were snapped up within a day of going on sale late last month.

This spring and summer WDFW has been hearing it from hunters who’ve long enjoyed drive-in access on the hundreds of thousands of acres of ground in both Southwest Washington properties during the fall rifle buck hunt as well as walk/bike/horseback-in access at other times.

Those hunters who didn’t secure a permit will now need to scope out new ground, a tough thing to do for those who value the tradition of knowing how to hunt a hillside or draw.

Locking up lands has become more and more common as timber growers deal with theft and other abuses of their ground, but generally walk-in access has been allowed.

Doug Huddle’s North Sound column in our August issue illustrates how pervasive it’s become in the North Sound and why it’s increasingly frustrating for hunters:

Hunting black bear in Northwest Washington is now much more problematic, though not impossible. The days of free vehicle access to a Cascade foothills landscape laced with logging roads and liberally sprinkled with broad, berry-filled clear cuts are gone.

Virtually all private timberlands, where much of the logging takes place, are now behind locked gates inaccessible to the public by vehicle. On federal lands, where logging has all but stopped, bear-browsed clearcuts have grown up to closed-canopy second growth, and if they get them at all, hunters have much briefer glimpses of bears in shrinking brush breaks.

State forest lands, while still harvested at significant rates, are increasingly difficult to get to because negotiated road access agreements do not include running rights for the public.

Leroy Ledeboer, our Columbia Basin columnist, outlines a new private-lands hunting program that’s coming online for this fall’s bird hunts in the Palouse and elsewhere mostly in the eastern third of the state, one that will also include a unique opportunity to work 1,200 acres on the south side of Steptoe Butte, land recently enrolled in the Hunt By Reservation system.