Tag Archives: fish and wildlife commission

Washington Game Commissioners Hear About Northeast Predator, Prey Issues

With the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s monthly meeting being held in Spokane, members had a chance to hear about the region’s predator and prey issues from local residents this morning.


And from too many cougars to not enough deer to wolf management, hunters, homeowners and ranchers gave WDFW’s citizen oversight panel an earful, and then some, during public input.

In testimony that was being live-streamed, some talked about how few deer they were seeing anymore where once they would routinely see hundreds.

One hunter who had been afield for 40 years and whose family has a longtime deer camp near Sherman Pass spoke of seeing only one mature mule deer buck and a handful of does last season.

He tearfully called for a six-year deer hunting moratorium across Eastern Washington so future generations would have opportunities to see the animals.

A Colville-area man proposed a pilot Sept. 1-March 31 lion season in WDFW’s District 1, the popular game management units of Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.

His idea called for a minimum harvest of 45, but if the take fell below that the hunt would be restricted as a sign of a declining population.


Another talked about fearing letting his kids play in the backyard, relating a story about a cougar having been as close as 3 feet from someone.

Some called for reinstating hound hunting, and another spotlighted one tribe’s predator and prey management, essentially saying that big game is their primary priority.

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A man with a CDL volunteered to help translocate wolves out of the region.

And a livestock producer told commissioners how ranchers were poo-pooed that one wolf pack had twice as many members as state managers thought, but were vindicated when a recent aerial survey showed just that.

He also indicated he was more comfortable speaking in Spokane than Olympia, where he said he felt like he might be shot in the back by audience members.

Speaking of Olympia, several predator and prey bills that could affect Northeast Washington have been active there.

SB 2097, directing WDFW to review the status of wolves in Washington, has been amended after pushback to kill the possibility of considering regional delisting;

SB 5525 deals with whitetail deer surveys and gives the agency a goal of increasing counts to eight to nine per mile;

And HB 1516 and SB 5320 would create a program for training dogs for nonlethal pursuit of predators by vetted houndsmen to protect stock and public safety.

Meanwhile, for this hunting season, WDFW is proposing to eliminate antlerless whitetail tags and permits for youth, senior, disabled, second deer, early and late archery and early muzzleloader seasons in GMUs 101 through 121 to try and increase the herd.

Back in Spokane, the commission’s public input period was scheduled to run from 8:15 to 8:45 a.m., but didn’t wrap up until 10:48 a.m. such was the number of people who wanted to speak.

“We heard you and we’ll start discussing this internally and see what we can do,” said Chairman Larry Carpenter in closing testimony.

At the end of today’s session, Carpenter touched on predators again, as did another commissioner.

“We’re not headed on the right compass course,” said Jay Holzmiller of Anatone, who said it was a bad idea “to keep walking down the road fat, dumb and happy.”

“We’re sitting on a powder keg,” he said.

Elk Hoof Disease Confirmed In Washington’s Southeast Corner

Hoof disease in elk has turned up in Washington’s Blues, echoing confirmed cases on the Oregon side of the range and coming after Idaho earlier this month said an infected wapiti was harvested last fall across the Snake River from the mountains.


WDFW’s Kyle Garrison says hooves submitted by a muzzleloader hunter who killed the animal southeast of Walla Walla in mid-January came back late last week from a Washington State University lab as positive for treponeme-associated hoof disease.

The cow elk was taken on a permit in the Pikes Peak area of Game Management Unit 154.

Garrison says the initial belief is that there may not be more affected elk there, based on the high public visibility of the herd, but his agency plans to ramp up monitoring, including spending more time looking for limpers during upcoming aerial surveys.

The news was first reported by the Walla Walla Union Bulletin last night.

The disease makes it more difficult for elk to get around and there is no treatment for it, according to WDFW.

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Last year, after hoof disease was found in elk east of Washington’s Cascade Crest for the first time, the agency began euthanizing members of a Trout Lake herd, removing 12 through the end of 2018 through a combination of state staff and landowner efforts and special damage hunt permits.

Garrison says that he has two more sets of hooves from elk taken by master hunters to submit to WSU for testing.

“We’re still actively monitoring and actively removing limpers when we can” in the Trout Lake valley, he says.

Further west WDFW is conducting a four-year study of survival rates of infected cow elk, as well as the disease’s affects on fecundity and herd movement. Some 76 animals are part of the study.

To try and stop or slow the spread of hoof disease, WDFW is also proposing expanding the area where hooves must be left in the field to all of Western Washington.

That follows on recent confirmed cases just south of Olympic National Park and past years’ requirements that initially applied to just several units in the Cowlitz River basin, then all of Southwest Washington and units stretching up the I-5 corridor to Canada.

Public comment will be taken on the proposal at the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting this Friday in Spokane.

Garrison also encouraged members of the public to share their sightings of limping elk, both recent ones and any they may have seen in the past.

With this latest confirmation, hoof disease isn’t just on the radar in Eastern Washington, but a growing threat there.

Hunt Rule Changes Up For Comment At WA FWC Meeting March 1-2 In Spokane


The public will have an opportunity to provide input on new hunting seasons proposed through 2021 for deer, elk, waterfowl, and other game species at an upcoming meeting of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in Spokane.


Other issues on the agenda include an update on the Columbia River Policy Review, proposed land acquisitions, and other topics.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, will meet March 1-2 in the Inland Empire Room of the Ramada by Wyndham Spokane Airport, 8909 W. Airport Dr., Spokane. The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. both days.

A full agenda is available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html.

On Friday, the commission will hear a briefing and take public comments on recommended adjustments to the hunting season that include:

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  • Eliminating antlerless white-tailed deer hunts in game management units 101-121 in northeastern Washington to help conserve that area’s deer population.
  • Changing state archery rules to remove the minimum arrow weight restrictions.
  • Extending a rule requiring hunters to remove and leave behind the hooves of any elk harvested to all western Washington game management units. The requirement, aimed at reducing the spread of elk hoof disease, is currently in effect in 45 of the 61 game management units in western Washington.
  • Removing hunter orange requirements for turkey hunters except during general modern firearm deer and elk seasons.

In other business, the commission will receive a briefing and potentially give guidance on 2019 policies and regulations for Columbia Rivers salmon fisheries. The Joint Washington and Oregon Columbia River Salmon Fishery Policy Review Committee is working to find common ground on ways to achieve policy goals adopted in 2013 for jointly managed fisheries.

Prior to the start of the regular commission meeting, two committee meetings will be held on Thursday. The newly formed Wolf Advisory Committee, made up of commissioners Kim Thorburn, Jay Holzmiller, and Barbara Baker, will meet at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28 in the Executive Conference Room at the Spokane International Airport. The Wildlife Committee, made up of the same commissioners, meets at 3 p.m., in the same location. These meetings are open to the public to observe.

‘Next Steps’ In Columbia Salmon Reforms Subject Of ODFW-WDFW Commissioners Meeting; Open To Public



The public is invited to attend a meeting scheduled this month by members of the Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions to discuss next steps in reforming salmon management on the Columbia River.


The meeting is set for Jan. 17 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Room, 4034 Fairview Industrial Dr. S.E. in Salem, Ore. The public is welcome to observe the discussion, but will not have an opportunity to comment during the meeting.

The Joint-State Columbia River Salmon Fishery Policy Review Committee, which includes three members of each state’s commission, was formed to renew efforts to achieve management goals for Columbia River fisheries endorsed by both states in 2013.

The three delegates to the workgroup from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission are commissioners David Graybill from Chelan County, Bob Kehoe from King County, and Don McIsaac from Clark County. The commission is a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

WDFW recently finalized its five-year performance review of the 2013 fishery reform policy, which called for reforms ranging from requirements that anglers use barbless hooks to a phase-out of commercial gillnets in the main channel of the Columbia River. While the performance review noted progress on some issues, expectations have not been met in a variety of other key areas, said Ryan Lothrop, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator.

“This new effort is designed to find common ground on strategies for improving fishery management in the Columbia River,” Lothrop said. “Having different policies in joint waters of the Columbia River makes it very difficult to manage and implement fisheries.”

Washington’s Comprehensive Evaluation of the Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy is available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/02029/.

Lothrop, who will staff Washington’s commissioners, said the workgroup’s first task will be to establish a schedule for future meetings. The panel will then discuss issues addressed in the policy review, focusing initially on strategies that could to be incorporated into fishing regulations for the 2019 season.

To take effect, any new proposals endorsed by the workgroup would require approval by the full fish and wildlife commissions in each state, Lothrop said.

“The group doesn’t have a lot of time to discuss changes for 2019,” Lothrop said. “The season-setting process for this year’s salmon fisheries gets underway in mid-March, so that’s the focus for the near term.”



A joint workgroup of commissioners from the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissions will meet to discuss policies affecting Columbia River salmon fisheries. The workgroup includes three members from each state’s commission.

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 17 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Commission room at the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Headquarters, 4034 Fairview Industrial Dr. SE, Salem. The meeting is open to attendance by the public, but no public testimony will be taken.

The workgroup meeting follows a November 2018 joint meeting of the two full Commissions to discuss differences between the current policies of each state. The workgroup’s first task will be to establish a schedule and process for future meetings. The workgroup will then begin discussion of issues, initially focusing on finding common ground for 2019 fishing seasons.

The workgroup meetings are not decision-making meetings. The workgroups will report back to their full Commissions, who will ultimately consider any changes to their respective policies.

WA Fish Commission OKs Willapa Crabbing Change, Talks Columbia Salmon Policy


Sport crabbers will be able to set their pots in Willapa Bay in the fall two weeks earlier than in the past after the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the change at a meeting Monday.


The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), agreed to allow recreational crabbers to set pots in Willapa Bay on Nov. 15, two weeks earlier than usual. WDFW staff proposed the change to provide more opportunity for recreational crabbers and to reduce gear conflicts with commercial crabbers. 

During the special, half-day meeting in Olympia, commissioners also reviewed the outcomes of a 5-year-old policy that significantly changed salmon fisheries on the Columbia River.

The Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy, approved by the commission in 2013, is designed to promote orderly fisheries, wild salmon and steelhead conservation, and economic stability in the state’s fishing industry. Strategies for achieving those goals includes allocating more salmon to sport fisheries, promoting the use of alternative fishing gear in commercial fisheries and increasing the production/releases of salmon in off-channel areas.

Commissioners took public comment on the salmon policy and heard panel discussions that included representatives from conservation organizations as well as commercial and recreational fishing groups.

The commission’s review of the Columbia River policy will continue next month during a meeting in Vancouver with Oregon commissioners. More information on that meeting will be available online in the coming weeks at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html.

Fish Commissions Urged Not To Rollback Columbia Salmon Reforms

Ahead of a five-year review and public comment on Columbia salmon and steelhead reforms, fishing advocates are sending out red alerts the tide might be turning in the lower river.


“There’s absolutely no reason to change right now, it makes no sense,” says former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber in one of several short videos posted this month on Keep Gillnets off the Columbia’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

He was instrumental in the 2012 compromise that prioritized developing new alternative nontribal commercial gear in the mainstem, moving netting to off-channel areas near the mouth, and increasing allocation for sportfishers, moves also aimed to help more wild salmon and steelhead — some of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act — get through to upstream spawning grounds.

The reforms have proven contentious, with a major disagreement early last year over ESA-listed Snake River fall Chinook impact allocations, with Washington wanting to move to the planned 80-20 nontribal sport-commercial split but Oregon sticking to 70-30.

In another video, Larry Cassidy, a longtime former Washington Game Commission member and respected conservationist, called the reforms a “smart move”, and said they’re working well and there’s “no reason” not to continue them.

The importance of Columbia Chinook was recently highlighted by a joint state-federal review that found springers, tules and upriver brights among key feedstocks for struggling southern resident killer whales.

The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, which said in a weekly newsletter last Friday that it’s grateful for Kitzhaber’s continued interest in the issue, is urging its members to check out Gillnetskill.com and asking them to contact Oregon’s and Washington’s governors, Kate Brown and Jay Inslee.

The issue will be before the eight current Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioners during a Monday, Oct. 15, meeting that begins at 8:30 a.m.

Members will get a staff briefing on the reforms and view a presentation that includes color-coded report cards for how well it’s played out in terms of management purposes; recreational, commercial and tribal fisheries; allocations; new gear; and the economic results.

“The report is simply a tool to help commissioners evaluate whether the policy has been a success,” Bill Tweit, a WDFW special assistant, said in an agency press release out earlier this week.

Afterwards there will be an hour-long panel discussion and a chance for public comment.

A meeting agenda says that WDFW staffers will also “seek guidance and next steps.”

Later in the meeting, commissioners will hold their annual get-together with Inslee, and in early November the citizen panel appointed by the governor will meet with its Oregon counterparts on the issue.

Oregon Fish Commission To Decide On SW Wild Steelhead Retention Ban Proposal

A few years back I was shocked when a major player in the Northwest fishing world told me that wild steelhead should be open for harvest.

In a region where nates are venerated, where reverence for intact adipose fins is strong, and where some returns are troubled, it felt like sacrilege.

But the angler was also speaking to waters where wild runs are strong enough to sustain limited take.


That appears to be the case on 10 Southern Oregon streams, where ODFW allows fishermen to keep one winter-run a day and three to five a season, but some anglers are petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Commission to end that practice.

“… Taking a precautionary approach to ensure wild steelhead thrive into the future, well before populations collapse, is needed,” write Harvey Young, Jim Dunlevy, Dustin Russell, Mark Gasich and Josh Terry.

They say releasing wild fish for others to catch increases opportunities and participation, that large steelhead anglers are more likely to keep are important contributors to the gene pool, the fishery is important to maintaining the local economy and the move would simplify the regulations.

Pointing to what they consider decreased monitoring as well as large-scale environmental disruptions in recent years — the blob, Chetco Bar Fire — they write, ” … It is in the best interest of the agency, anglers, local businesses, and Oregonians to limit the impacts to sensitive fish populations in the case of uncertainty and help ensure that the Southwest Zone wild steelhead populations sustain robust recreational fisheries now and in the future.”

A number of anglers, many from California, also support it.

Not everyone agrees, however.

A board member of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association says it’s a”self-serving draconian push by a handful of people seemingly dead set on running the average Joe off our river.”

That’s what Grants Pass native and tackle seller Dave Strahan wrote and NSIA shared on Facebook earlier today.

In addition to a number of counties, cities, a tourist board and 500 individuals signing onto a counter proposal to continue wild harvest, Wild Rivers Fishing owner-operator Andy Martin (who, full disclosure, occasionally advertises in this magazine) opposes the petition.

“I admire and respect petitioner Harvey Young and his desire to protect winter steelhead on the Chetco and other Oregon rivers, but feel a change to the fishing regulations is unwarranted and has no scientific basis,” Martin wrote to the commission. “ODFW staff has not made any finding that wild winter steelhead in Southwestern Oregon are in need of increased harvest restrictions to maintain sustainable populations.”

For their part, state biologists say, “All indications show that there is not a conservation concern.”

In recommending the petition be denied, they say that spawning ground and juvenile fish numbers suggest a stable steelhead population, and that numbers are only limited by habitat issues.

Concerns about wild steelhead can be addressed in an upcoming conservation plan for several fish species, ODFW says.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will make the final call when it meets later this week in Bandon.

WDFW Commission Decides On 15 Percent Fee Hike After All, But With Caps

Washington fishing and hunting overseers are now recommending a 15 percent across-the-board fee hike — three times as much as they’d decided on just two weeks ago — but they also softened the hit to WDFW’s most ardent license buyers.

The move during a conference call this morning follows on the request of more than a dozen leading sportsmen and others that the Fish and Wildlife Commission reconsider its Aug. 10 decision to ask state lawmakers for just a 5 percent hike.

A letter signed by 15 of the 20 members of the agency’s Budget and Policy Advisory Group said that that wouldn’t have covered inflation since the last increase in 2011 and they also feared that it would be “frowned upon by legislators and force the department into cuts that will harm our interests and our state’s natural resources.”

Fifteen percent was the top end of the initial range of license increases that were first proposed in June.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the new proposal on a voice vote of 6-1, with Don McIsaac against and Jay Holzmiller leaving the call during discussion. Earlier they also approved asking lawmakers for inflationary adjustments.

Overall for its 2019-21 budget, WDFW is requesting $60 million more to deal with a looming structural shortfall as well as enhance fishing, hunting and conservation work, with as much as two-thirds of that dependent on money coming from the General Fund, a sharp departure since the Great Recession put the onus on user fees supporting the agency.

It all still needs to be presented and passed during next year’s legislative session in Olympia and signed by the governor, but the commission set $7 and $15 caps on fishing and hunting license bundles.

For instance, the new Fish Washington package — combo license plus two-pole, Puget Sound crab and Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsements — would rise 9.66 percent from $79.62 to $87.31 instead of $91.56 under the across-the-board 15 percent hike.

But someone who only fishes for trout in lakes would see a 13.98 percent increase and pay $4.13 more for the freshwater license that now runs $29.50,

Though no such bundle is available, a “hunting enthusiast” currently shelling out $149.80 for the deer, elk, bear, cougar + small game combo, two special permit applications and a turkey tag would pay $16.50 more, an 11.01 percent increase, according to WDFW.

A commission presentation says that the 1B option would raise $13.7 million over the next two years and that:

• All customers contribute but none in excess
• Lessens pocketbook impact to most dedicated customers
• Simple messaging about the maximum increase

Commissioners looked at several other options drummed up on short notice. Those included a phased-in, 8 to 15 percent approach; an $8 resident endorsement; and a $5 endorsement plus a 5 percent increase.

Earlier this month members also approved asking lawmakers to make the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement permanent. It otherwise expires at the end of next June and supports a range of fisheries.

That the Fish and Wildlife Commission backtracked from 5 percent to 15 percent on the fee increase proposal is a sign that it must have taken the letter to heart, that a wide range of stakeholders had their back, to paraphrase one BPAG member.

Among hunter and angler representatives urging the citizen oversight panel to reconsider were Ron Garner of Puget Sound Anglers, David Cloe of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Rachel Voss of the Mule Deer Foundation, Butch Smith of the Ilwaco Charter Association, and Mark Pidgeon of the Hunters Heritage Council,

Some of them were against WDFW’s previous fee hike proposal, the Wild Futures Initiative, just last year. After that failed, lawmakers provided a one-time $10 million bump that came with requirements that the agency review its management practices, perform a zero-based budget analysis and come up with a long-term funding plan. Out of that also came BPAG.

“It’s a tough call but we need to keep the department funded but want to see more money pumped into hatchery production. We do need legislature to approve general fund money and also federal funds on hatchery increases for both the orcas and us,” said PSA’s Garner.

Others members who signed include Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest, Jason Callahan of the timber industry’s Washington Forest Protection Association, and Greg Mueller of the Washington Trollers Association.

But there’s been far less support for an increase among rank and file deerstalkers, salmon anglers and other sportsmen for a fee hike.

Preliminary results from a survey after WDFW rolled out 12 to 15 percent increases or a one-time annual $10 surcharge said nearly half of all respondents were “very unlikely” to support one.

New WDFW Director To Be Named June 16

One of three finalists will be named WDFW’s new director next weekend.

The trio will undergo one last round of executive-session interviews with the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission this coming Thursday, with members expected to make their final decision after 11 a.m., Saturday, June 16.

The announcement will be made in Olympia during open public session.

There are rumors about who threw their hat in the ring for the position, and who is still standing, and it will be interesting to see who is ultimately chosen. The Chinook Observer reports that commission staff “refused” to reveal the finalists’ identities.

The search for a new director was sparked in midwinter when Jim Unsworth announced that, after three years in the hot seat, he was leaving.

Nineteen people initially applied for the position, a field that was winnowed to seven by a subcommittee of the commission in mid-April, and then three in recent weeks.

The job listing WDFW posted said that whomever the next director might be, they would lead the agency through a “transformative” period as budget pressures increase, requiring “clear vision, true leadership, and firm decisions” on their part.

“The Director will be asked to develop effective new approaches to conserving and recovering fisheries resources, while resolving long-standing and increasing conflicts among competing stakeholders,” read just one part of a 10-point list of challenges in the help wanted ad.

Whomever is chosen will oversee a staff of 1,800, land base of 1,400 square miles and harness a $437 million two-year budget to hold and conserve fisheries and hunting opportunities and provide scientific rationale for what it’s doing.

WDFW has never had a female director.

Joe Stohr, a top deputy in various positions at WDFW since coming to the agency in 2007, has been holding down the fort during the search process.

WDFW Holding Public Meetings, Taking Comment On Columbia River Salmon Policies


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is inviting people to share their views at four upcoming meetings in Ridgefield on a draft assessment of a state policy that guides the management of salmon fisheries in the lower Columbia River.


The policy, adopted in 2013 by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, is designed to promote orderly fisheries, advance the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead, and support the economic well-being of the Columbia River fishing industry.

WDFW has initiated a review of that policy at the request of the commission, a nine-member a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the department.

“Once completed, this review will provide a foundation for the commission’s assessment of the policy,” said Bill Tweit, a WDFW special assistant. “Commissioners have emphasized that the department’s review must be detailed, comprehensive, and open to public involvement.”

To encourage engagement, the department invites the public to join in discussions with two WDFW advisory groups at any or all of four meetings designed to inform the department’s policy review. All of those meetings will be held at WDFW’s regional office at 5525 S. 11th St. in Ridgefield:

  • The Columbia River Commercial Fishing Advisory Group: Meetings scheduled May 15 and July 31 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • The Columbia River Recreational Fishing Advisory Group: Meetings scheduled May 15 and July 12 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

An initial draft of the Comprehensive Review of the Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy is posted on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/comp_review_columbia_river_basin_salmon-C-3620.pdf.

WDFW staff briefed the commission on an initial draft of its policy review March 17 at a public meeting in Wenatchee. Commissioners will receive regular updates from staff through mid-September, when they will meet to discuss WDFW’s final review of the Columbia River policy.

The Washington and Oregon commissions may also meet jointly in November to discuss the policy.

All of these meetings are open to the public.

Information about the upcoming meetings can be found on the advisory group websites (https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/advisory/) and the commission website (https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/).

The Columbia River Basin Salmon Management policy, as revised by the Washington commission in January 2017, is available at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/policies/c3620.pdf