Hunter Ed, Wolf Bills Filed In Olympia

That somewhat joking lets-share-the-joy-of-wolves-with-the-Westside bill filed in Olympia might be the fishing-and-hunting legislation getting the most attention right now, but another one would make more substantive changes to hunter ed policies.

Under HB 1199, kids under 8 years of age would be barred from taking the course or getting a hunting license in Washington, and hunters 14 and under — unless they were on their own property — would need to be accompanied by an adult with a current deer, elk or other tag and hunting license.

If passed, it would also allow WDFW to begin collecting a course application fee of up to $20 starting this August — currently, attended classes are free — and charge a $10 fee for issuing a duplicate hunter ed certifications.

Immediate reaction wasn’t favorable — an email forwarded to this magazine from Northeast Washington worried that the agency-request legislation was “killing the future of hunting by putting more restrictions and costs attached to our youth!”

WDFW’s Mike Cenci, who tracks and lobbies for such bills in Olympia, doesn’t buy that. He says the $20 fee would help offset room and/or range rentals, costs sometimes borne by the volunteer instructors themselves and which are sometimes defrayed by unaccountable pass-the-jar fundraising.

The fee would also help dissuade dads from signing Junior up for multiple courses in hopes of making at least one, but in the process filling up classes and leaving other young students without a seat.

The issue of a minimum age for hunter ed and costs came up in a 2011 article in Northwest Sportsman, in which Leroy Ledeboer spoke to a president of a local sportsmen’s club who recalled, “I was at one class where a 5-year-old was enrolled. The kid sat on his dad’s lap, sucked his thumb and eventually fell asleep. Yet the instructor had no choice but to let him participate.”

The bill is cosponsored by Representatives Blake, Chandler, Takko, Buys, Kirby, Orcutt, Lytton, Van De Wege, Nealey, Hudgins, Stanford, Wilcox, Warnick, Ryu, Morrell, and Tharinger.

SB 5137 and HB 1218 deal with fishing and hunting license suspensions for those in arrears with child support payments. Cenci says that those caught violating their fishing or hunting license suspension a first time would be lose their privileges for that activity for two years, and recidivists found a second time would lose their fishing, hunting and trapping privileges for four years. Currently, it’s a permanent ban, he says.

SB 5080 would allow the WDFW-issued access pass to also be good for use on DNR lands and recreation sites where a Discovery Pass is now otherwise required. It has a public hearing this Thursday at 1:30 p.m. before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Parks.

HB 1073 would affect county tax collections on WDFW- and DNR-owned lands as well as allow counties to keep fish and game violation fees.

As for wolves, Rep. Joel Kretz, who filed the wolf translocation bill, HB 1258,which eyes up islands in Puget Sound of 50 square miles or more (Whidbey, Orcas), among other large areas in Western Washington, as possible new homes for the Huckleberries, Smacks and other packs, explained to Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association the rationale behind it:

“My bill, if passed, would truly be a successful collaboration between east and west, urban and rural and rich and poor parts of the state. Those residents and communities that support housing wolf packs at all costs are free to do so. Those of us dealing with the economic costs associated with loss of livestock and pets can deem the wolves nuisances and, therefore, make the animals available for relocation where they will be set free to roam unfettered in new habitat.”

He is also expected to post a more serious bill delisting wolves from the state “endangered species list in Eastern Washington, a step the federal government has already taken,” blogged the Spokane Spokesman-Review‘s political reporter Jim Camden late last week. “That would allow ranchers to kill wolves attacking livestock or pets, and possibly lay the groundwork for regulated hunting.”

Another bill, HB 1219, would create a wolf license plate. Proceeds ($40 new, $30 to renew) would go into a special WDFW account for managing wolves. That money, however, could not go towards helicopter gunships or other lethal removal expenses.

“That would bring in $100,000 in revenues,” estimates Cenci.

This one would be a nice one to see passed: those who support the species can put their money where their mouth is.

And finally, HB 1191 would require “that rules established by the fish and wildlife commission allow an owner of livestock to kill a mammalian predator, regardless of state classification, without a permit or other form of permission.”

It’s a short session, and one dedicated to solving education issues; most of the above bills were referred to the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee (SB 5137 was sent to the Senate’s counterpart) — we’ll see if any of the above get any traction.

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