Last hunting season it was the productive Vail and Pe Ell Tree Farms. This fall, vast swaths of Weyerhaeuser’s timberlands in Washington and Oregon will require a permit to drive, ride horses or even walk onto and pursue deer, elk and other species.
But where only a limited number of Vail and Pe Ell permits will again be available, that apparently won’t be the case on at least the Longview — it’s not mentioned, at any rate, in a recording — and other farms, though there will be some large areas where only a set number are offered.
We’ve got requests for comment out to WDFW, ODFW and Weyerhaeuser, but meanwhile, the guys on Hunting Washington are discussing the change here.
Prices listed online show that 2014 permits will range from $75 to $350, and the program begins August 1, the start of fall bear seasons.
Last year, when access to Vail — which had long been open on October and November general season weekends for free, drive-in deer hunting — went on sale in mid-June, all 650 permits sold out the same day.
The end of public access there led WDFW to close its long-standing deer check station.
Weyerhaeuser is also offering more lands for hunting leases as well, including 12 areas on the Longview farm.
Some lands will remain open to public access without permits, and on the Longview Tree Farm, they wouldn’t be needed to travel corridors to state lands, according to the company.
Requiring a permit for access, whether it be to lands or parking areas, isn’t new in the Northwest, but last year, after Weyerhaeuser instituted the policy on Vail and Pe Ell, WDFW honchos worried about where the trend would take hunting.
A Weyerhaeuser spokesman told us then that it was a “pilot,” and that it was being instituted because it’s become increasingly costly for the company to keep its lands open to the public due to vandalism, dumping and other damage.
Previously it had tried selling access to the Molalla Tree Farm for $250 for similar reasons but discontinued it. That was in 2008 around the time of the recession.
But at least one company has bucked the trend. Port Blakely announced last year that it was phasing out its recreational access fee program.
“While the program helped offset some of the expenses associated with public recreational access, we realized that excluding the public did not align with our long history of partnering with our neighbors and friends, trusting them to respect our forests and access policy,” it announced online.
Weyerhaeuser says permits and leases will be available for sale and bidding later this spring.