Tag Archives: hunting

ODFW Details Hunt Change Proposals; Legalizing Blacktail Spikes Could Up Harvest

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Last year, ODFW began a multi-year effort to review and improve hunting regulations.

Many of Oregon’s controlled hunts and season structures were put in place decades ago and mostly untouched through the years. “We have undertaken a complete review of our big game hunting regulations with the goal of making them more consistent, in tune with current populations and issues, and simpler,” said Nick Myatt, ODFW Grand Ronde Watershed Manager who is leading the effort.

AN OREGON HUNTING PROPOSAL WOULD REMOVE THE FORKED-ANTLER REQUIREMENT DURING WESTERN OREGON’S GENERAL BLACKTAIL SEASON. (ODFW)

A number of changes took effect in 2019, and now ODFW has new proposals for 2020. One of the major ideas proposed will be a change in the bag limit for the hunt in Oregon with more participation than any other—the Western Oregon general rifle deer season, which more than 61,000 people hunted in 2017. ODFW is proposing to simplify the bag limit from “one buck deer having not less than a forked antler” to “one buck with visible antler.” All 600 series antlerless deer hunts in western Oregon currently with a “one antlerless or spike deer” bag limit would also change to “one antlerless deer.”

The current bag limit is different from the eastern Oregon deer bag limit, creates enforcement issues, and is not biologically relevant. It is a relic of when western Oregon offered a large number of antlerless deer tags in some wildlife management units. The proposed bag limit change is expected to increase harvest opportunities and success for general season rifle deer hunters by allowing the harvest of spike bucks. While it may result in an increase in buck harvest, there are sufficient bucks in the population to support increased harvest. All but one Western Oregon unit has met or exceeded the benchmark for observed post-hunting season buck ratio in at least two of the last three years.

The change may also help the buck deer population by allowing hunters to remove the bucks genetically inclined to remain spikes. Data shows that some yearling bucks have forked antlers while some 2-year-old or older bucks have spike antlers.

Other eastern Oregon hunts in the 600 series that allow for buck harvest will be moved to the 100 series buck hunts for consistency and to more equitably distribute hunting opportunity by giving each hunter one buck hunting opportunity every year.

General season antlerless elk damage tag pilot program

Over the last few decades, elk populations in many areas have increased on private land adjacent to row crop or irrigated agricultural lands, leading to conflict, economic damage, and reduced hunting opportunity in some units.

ODFW and landowners use a variety of tools to address this damage, including hunting through controlled antlerless elk hunting and damage tags. However, controlled hunts can be inconvenient for hunters who must know far in advance (by May 15) that they will have private land access and want this as their elk hunting opportunity. Damage tags can be cumbersome for landowners and staff to implement. In many areas, overall harvest is still inadequate and private land elk populations continue to increase.

OREGON HUNTING MANAGERS HAVE A NEW PLAN FOR ACCESSING ELK CAUSING DAMAGE ON PRIVATE LAND. (RICK SWART, ODFW)

To address these issues, ODFW is proposing a new general season elk damage tag with an antlerless bag limit for the 2020 hunting season. This tag would replace 19 controlled hunts and the need for landowner damage tags during those timeframes (Aug. 1-March 31 for elk de-emphasis areas and western Oregon, and Aug. 1-Nov. 30 in other areas). The tags would be valid in specific chronic elk damage areas mapped annually by ODFW. Hunters considering this new opportunity would still need to think ahead about permission to hunt on private land for this tag and the tag would be their only elk hunting opportunity.

ODFW also proposes changing a few general bull elk rifle seasons in eastern Oregon (in Hood, White River, and central and SE Cascades) to controlled hunts, both for consistency and because some units are not meeting bull ratio objectives under the general season structure.

Other proposed changes include:

  • Longer, later seasons for pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and Rocky Mountain goat hunts to give hunters who draw one of these prized tags a later opening and more time to hunt.
  • 127 existing hunts being consolidated into 49 hunts.
  • 91 hunt dates expanded, made simpler or made consistent with other hunts.
  • 85 hunt areas expanded to the entire unit or hunt boundaries were made simpler.
  • 57 bag limits made simpler or made consistent with other hunts.
  • Nine new controlled hunt opportunities, including three late season mule deer hunts, two mountain goat hunts, and a pronghorn hunt.

A more complete list of proposed changes is available on MyODFW.com (under Big Game Hunting). ODFW is also hosting public meetings around the state in July to present these ideas and get feedback (meeting schedule will be posted on MyODFW.com in June).

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will be briefed on these concepts at their June 6 meeting in Salem, and make a final decision at their Sept. 13 meeting in Gold Beach when they adopt 2020 Big Game Regulations. Comments on the proposals can also be emailed to odfw.commission@state.or.us

IDFG Working On Access To 867K Acres Of Private Timber In Panhandle, Clearwater

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

A new partnership between Idaho Fish and Game and PotlatchDeltic will provide and preserve public access for hunting, fishing and trapping on 567,002 acres of private land in Benewah, Clearwater, Idaho, Latah and Shoshone counties through a lease agreement.

IDAHO HUNTING MANAGERS ARE CLOSE TO SECURING MORE THAN 1,300 SQUARE MILES OF ACCESS TO PRIVATE TIMBERLANDS IN NORTHERN IDAHO. TRASK APPLEGATE BAGGED THIS GREAT DWORSHAK RESERVOIR-AREA BUCK IN THE 2014 SEASON. (ONTARIO KNIFE CO. PHOTO CONTEST)

A second agreement expected to be finalized by early June is with a group of forestland owners and managers, including Stimson Lumber Co., Hancock Forest Management and Molpus Woodlands Group, to allow public access to more than 300,000 acres in Bonner, Boundary, Benewah, Shoshone and Kootenai counties.

Fish and Game will pay $1 per acre annually for the access, which includes hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife viewing, hiking and recreational travel limited to motor vehicle travel on roads open to full-sized vehicles. Restrictions on camping and ATV use may apply depending on the landowner’s rules.

“These agreements demonstrate Fish and Game’s continued commitment to putting money from the access/depredation fee to good use and provide hunters, anglers and trappers with access to private lands while compensating landowners for their support of those activities,” said Sal Palazzolo, F&G’s Private Lands/ Farm Bill Program Coordinator.

“PotlatchDeltic is pleased to partner with Idaho Fish and Game on this public access agreement. As the largest private timberland owner in Idaho, we recognize the importance of public access for recreational activities and the benefits for sportspersons and outdoor enthusiasts,” said Darin Ball, Vice President Resource, PotlatchDeltic.

The agreements came through Fish and Game’s new “large tracts” land lease program that targets multi-year access to parcels 50,000 acres or larger.

Lease agreements with all the companies will automatically renew for at least three years. Money for the leases comes from House Bill 230, which in 2017 established Fish and Game’s access/depredation fee that requires a $5 surcharge for residents and a $10 surcharge for nonresidents when they buy their first annual license of the year.

The access/depredation fund also pays for continued public access to 2.3 million acres of Idaho Department of Lands state endowment lands for hunting, fish, trapping and other recreation, which includes about $300,000 annually to the Department of Lands and Fish and Game providing law-enforcement services on endowment lands.

Fish and Game’s sportsman’s access programs also includes Access Yes!, which pays landowners to allow the public on, or through, their lands, and parcels accepted into that program go through an annual competitive bid process.

WDFW Shortfall Grows; Leaders Take Questions During Livestream

Washington fish and wildlife managers are now projecting they will have a $20 million budget shortfall over the coming two years — and it could more than double in the following two.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind broke the news earlier this week during a 2.5-hour-long livestreamed virtual open house.

WDFW HONCHOS LINE A TABLE DURING MONDAY NIGHT’S LIVE-STREAMED DIGITAL OPEN HOUSE. (WDFW)

“We ended up with less than we needed to get through the biennium, which means we’re not going to be able to provide the services we had hoped to,” he said about the recently concluded legislative session.

Lawmakers did give WDFW a one-time $24 million General Fund bump to fill a preexisting $31 million hole instead of raising fishing and hunting license fees and extending the Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsement.

But Susewind said that the shortfall also grew from that new initial $7 million difference to $20 million after legislators also “passed a lot of provisions that further increased our costs. Those increased costs came without additional revenue.”

WDFW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND. (WDFW)

This afternoon his budget and policy director Nate Pamplin said the $13 million ballooning was due to increased salaries for staffers and “other central service costs” that weren’t matched with new revenues; lower than expected disbursements from both the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts; and one-time hits from things like the Skagit catch-and-release wild steelhead fishery and Fish Washington app that would have been funded through the fee bill but now must be another way or get cut.

“We’re still reviewing what has been identified as at risk and trying to balance the budget,” Pamplin said.

Back on Monday’s live stream, Susewind acknowledged that legislators had “front loaded” the agency’s General Fund contribution towards the first year of the two-year budget “to come as close as we can to staying whole” in anticipation of working on it again when state senators and representatives return to Olympia next January .

But he also projected that the shortfall could grow to $46 million during the 2021-23 biennium if nothing’s done.

SUSEWIND HAS BEEN MAKING MORE USE of new ways to talk to WDFW’s constituents than past directors, and in this latest virtual town meeting he brought in a bevy of department heads and managers to talk about their programs and expertises.

But it also included about an hour’s worth of questions sent in by the public as they watched, and as you can imagine many inquiries dealt with the hot-button topics of the day — wolves, North of Falcon, Columbia fisheries.

One of the first questions was from a gentleman by the name of Bill who felt that over the past three years there’s been a lot of lost fishing opportunity and he wanted to know how WDFW was supporting sport anglers.

“We’re trying to maximize the opportunities within the constraints we have,” Susewind stated.

Those restrictions include all the Endangered Species Act listings on fish stocks that often swim alongside healthier ones, fisheries that require extensive and not-cheap monitoring for the state to receive federal permits to hold them.

DRIFT BOAT ANGLERS MAKE THEIR WAY DOWN THE SAUK RIVER DURING APRIL 2018’S 12-DAY FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Susewind said the agency was looking at ways to increase hatchery production, and he pointed to spill down the Columbia system to aid outmigrating smolts as well as habitat work to increase wild returns which would mean higher allowable impact rates on listed stocks

“This is an area I want to be direct with folks,” Susewind said. “I know there’s a ton of frustration around lack of opportunity at the same time we asked for an increase. I’d just ask folks to think through the situation. In these times of incredible constraints, declining runs, it costs more to actually provide the opportunity. The declining opportunity, the effort it takes to provide what opportunity is available is more.

“You all can make your own choice whether it’s a good investment if fees are worth it or not, but those fees are what are going to allow us to continue to manage, to allow us to hopefully turn around this run return and allow us to provide more opportunities,” he said, adding, “That’s what we’re trying to do. Time will tell if we’re successful.”

Asked whether WDFW was considering any early retirements to reduce the budget hole, Susewind said he couldn’t do that without a change in state law, but that staff cuts and not filling vacancies were being looked at.

A woman named Carol asked about a “conservation license,” and Susewind expressed some interest in it as a funding source though also for more durable, across the board funding. Pamplin added that the Reclaiming America’s Wildlife Act now in Congress was a “potential game changer … for us to invest in areas that need support.”

WDFW’s twin mandate tears it between providing harvest opportunities which raise money to pour back into providing more while also having to protect imperiled species that suck money the other way.

TWO WOLVES ROAM ACROSS A SNOWY EASTERN WASHINGTON LANDSCAPE. (UW)

THIS AND RECENT YEARS HAVE SEEN A LOT OF ANGER about the results from North of Falcon salmon-season-setting negotiations and the pruning of opportunities in inland saltwaters, and during the livestream, a question from Chad asked why there couldn’t be open meetings between WDFW and all Western Washington tribes.

Susewind, who just emerged from his first iteration of the annual set-to, called the idea unwieldy and said that the agency had a responsibility to represent its stakeholders during the talks but that that didn’t allow for them to behind those closed doors.

Salmon policy lead Kyle Adicks was more blunt.

“The tribes are sovereign governments. They don’t have to meet with us if they don’t want to. They don’t have to meet with members of our public if they don’t want to,” he said. “Ultimately it’s the tribes’ decision: If they want to have a government-to-government meeting, then that’s what we have.”

RON GARNER, PUGET SOUND ANGLERS PRESIDENT, SPEAKS AT AN ANGLERS RALLY IN LACEY, WASH., IN MAY 2016 AS STATE-TRIBAL NORTH OF FALCON NEGOTIATIONS WERE AT AN IMPASSE AFFECTING THE STATE OF THAT YEAR’S SEASONS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW piggybacks on the tribes’ federal nexus to get sport salmon seasons approved faster than they otherwise might be.

While Adicks also pointed back to a January 2017 Fish and Wildlife Commission briefing on the Open Public Meetings and Administrative Procedures Acts, in recent days a long-threatened legal challenge has been filed that contends that how WDFW sets salmon seasons with the tribes violates those two state laws.

Filed by Twin Harbors Fish and Wildlife Advocacy of McCleary, the petition asks a Thurston County Superior Court judge to throw out the state’s adopted 2019-20 salmon seasons.

WDFW had no comment when I asked about the matter earlier this week — “As you probably know, we don’t comment on ongoing litigation” — but did pass along their efforts to increase transparency:

WDFW values and works hard to provide transparency in the development of fishing seasons. The development of fishing seasons also includes work with tribal co-managers, and those meetings involve highly sensitive government-to-government negotiations with 20 individual treaty tribes during the North of Falcon process.

In 2019, the department held more than a dozen public meetings to discuss potential salmon seasons in various locations around the state. Three of the meetings were live-streamed on WDFW’s website and made available for the public to watch later. WDFW also provided the public with the option to submit comments electronically through the department’s website. During the closing portion of North of Falcon negotiations, which took place during the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in California, the department had daily conference calls with advisors and constituents to discuss the latest developments.

ANOTHER QUESTION FOCUSED ON WHY the Fish and Wildlife Commission had allowed gillnets back into the Columbia this year, gear that had been schedule to be phased out by 2017 under fishery reforms.

Susewind called that policy an adaptive one that aimed to keep commercial fisheries viable on the big river too but that replacement gear hasn’t been figured out, so the citizen panel decided to extend gillnetting “while we figure out how to implement the rest of the policy.”

With spring Chinook now coming in far below forecast and summer Chinook not even opening, gillnetting this year will be limited to a handful of days targeting fall Chinook near Vancouver at the end of summer.

A GUIDE BOAT RUNS UP THE LOWER COLUMBIA DURING 2014’S BUOY 10 FALL SALMON FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Dozens more questions were asked and they covered the gamut:

* What WDFW was doing to increase branch-antler bull elk opportunities;

* How much  it costs to investigate wolf depredations;

* Whether WDFW plans to dispute the status of perennially fishery constraining mid-Hood Canal Chinook as a distinct stock (they’re essentially locally adapted Green/Duwamish strays released into the Skokomish);

* Reducing commercial bycatch;

* If WDFW was considering opening a spring bear general season;

  • What the agency was doing to increase access to salmon and steelhead, boosting mule deer and elk populations, and upping steelhead production;

* If WDFW can fine people who create repeat predator issues;

  • If Westside- and Eastside-only deer tags were possible;

* Instead of bag limits, if tags for salmon were possible;

* The latest on Southwest Washington hoof rot.

* And why weren’t WDFW staffers required to be hunters and anglers.

To see WDFW’s responses, skip to about the 1:23:00-mark of the digital open house.

A SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON MULE DEER BUCK PUTS DISTANCE BETWEEN ITSELF AND PHOTOGRAPHER-HUNTER CHAD ZOLLER. (ONTARIO KNIFE CO. PHOTO CONTEST)

“I hope we have your continued support as we try to turn this around and provide more opportunity in this state for hunting and fishing,” Susewind said in wrapping it up.

As he stated earlier, time will tell if WDFW is successful.

ODFW Premium, Controlled Hunt App Deadline May 15; Heads Up On Baker Co. Ranch Access

THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

One week left to apply for “Premium” hunt of a lifetime and other controlled hunts: Deadline May 15, 2019

It’s the hunt of a lifetime—though you can win it more than once.

Premium Hunts (see photos) are Oregon’s premiere hunting opportunity for both residents and non-residents—deer, elk and pronghorn antelope tags with a four-month season (Aug. 1-Nov. 30) and any-sex bag limit.

FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD DAMON STEELHAMMER OF EUGENE POSES WITH HIS FOSSIL UNIT BULL ELK, TAKEN ON DAY FIVE OF A PREMIUM TAG HUNT LAST SEASON. (BRYAN MURPHY VIA ODFW)

Like all limited-entry controlled hunts, applications are $8, and due no later than 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, May 15. Premium Hunt tags also cost the same as other big game tags.

But the draw for Premium Hunts is not based on preference points, so everyone has an equal chance to draw each year. And unlike “once-in-a-lifetime” bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goat tags, Premium Hunts can be drawn again and again.

Premium Hunts are also considered additional tags—meaning winners can still hunt on their regular controlled or general season big game tag.

Finally, both residents and non-residents can apply and both have an equal chance to draw.

How to apply
It’s easy to apply online at www.myodfw.com Click the “Buy License/Apply for tag” button and login. If you haven’t created an online account yet, use Verify/Look Up Account to find your profile and create one. (All hunters and anglers who have purchased an annual license in the past three years, have preference points, or have Pioneer or Disability status need to use Verify/Look Up Account as they already have a profile in the new system.)

Once you are logged in or have set up your account, go to Purchase from the Catalog / Big Game Hunting / Controlled Hunts and choose the deer, elk or pronghorn antelope Premium Hunt application. Then Proceed to Checkout to make your hunt selections (hunts are selected before you enter your payment information and complete the purchase). Reminder that as with all controlled hunt applications, a hunting license is required to apply. For a step-by-step guide to applying online, visit https://medium.com/@MyODFW/how-to-apply-for-a-controlled-hunt-online-ed08f04b0345

One Premium deer, elk or pronghorn antelope tag is available in just about every unit where these species occur, see page 64-66 of 2019 Oregon Big Game Regulations or the online regulations (http://www.eregulations.com/oregon/big-game-hunting/premium-hunts/) for details and hunt numbers.

You can also apply for Premium and all other controlled hunts at ODFW offices that sell licenses and at license sale agents. Hunters are encouraged to apply as soon as possible to avoid long lines on deadline day.

More about Premium Hunts
ODFW first introduced Premium Hunts in 2016 to offer every hunter the chance to win the hunt of a lifetime at the cost of a regular tag. Last year, the Wenaha elk, Metolius deer, and W Beaty Butte-N70B pronghorn antelope were the most sought-after hunts with the most first-choice applicants. Find out more about the most and least applied for hunts at https://myodfw.com/articles/premium-big-game-hunts

To see photos and stories from 2018 Premium Hunt winners, visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/premium_hunts/2018_winners/EverallDeerMurderersCreekcreditAndyDill.asp

…….

Lookout Mt. hunters: Forsea Ranch Access Area not available for fall big game hunting

Hunters should be aware that the Forsea Ranch Access Area is ending its participation in the Access and Habitat (A and H) program and will not be available to hunt through the program after July 31, 2019.

The property had provided open “Welcome to Hunt” access to more than 9,000 acres of private land in the Lookout Mt. Unit (Baker County). Hunters applying for fall big game controlled hunts in the unit will not be able to hunt this access area through the A and H program this fall.

AN ODFW HUNTING MAP SHOWS THE FORSEA RANCH, WHICH IS PULLING OUT OF THE STATE AGENCY’S ACCESS PROGRAM FOLLOWING A DISPUTE OVER A ROAD WITH BAKER COUNTY. (ODFW)

The fall controlled hunts affected are #164 (buck deer); #s 264A1, 264A2, 264X, 264Y (elk); #464 (pronghorn antelope); #s 564A1 and 564A2 (bighorn sheep). The deadline to apply for all fall controlled hunts is next Wednesday, May 15.

Hunters who have already applied for a controlled hunt in Lookout Mt and wish to change their hunt choice based on the closure of Forsea Ranch Access Area have until June 1 to do so. The easiest way to change a hunt choice is to login to your MyODFW.com account, go to Recreational Portfolio/Controlled Hunts and then click the Edit button next to Hunt Choices. Hunters who haven’t logged in to their online account yet should use the “Verify/Look Up Your account” button to retrieve and set up their online account.

Hunt choices can also be changed through June 1 at ODFW offices that sell licenses, at license sale agents, or by contacting Licensing (odfw.websales@state.or.us, tel. (503) 947-6101).

Forsea Ranch Access Area participated in ODFW’s A and H Program, which provides grants to landowners to allow hunters to access their private land. The property was originally scheduled to be in the program through 2021.

The landowner notified ODFW late last week that he was “regretfully” discontinuing participation in the program as of July 31, 2019 due to a disagreement with Baker County involving a public road.

Lookout Mt. is only 38 percent public land so A and H properties provide important hunter access in the unit. Other A and H properties in the unit include Widman Access Area, Troy Ranches Access Area, MR King Access Area, Virtue Flat Access Area and Iron Mountain Access Area. Find more information at https://myodfw.com/articles/hunting-access-map

WDFW’s Susewind To Hold Another Digital Open House May 13

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Kelly Susewind, director of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will host a virtual open house on Monday, May 13 to give the public a chance to ask about the department’s policies and direction.

WDFW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND WILL HOLD ANOTHER WEBINAR TO TALK ABOUT HIS AGENCY’S ISSUES. LAST NOVEMBER HE HELD HIS FIRST. (YOUTUBE)

“I want to share some updates on the agency, but the main purpose is to have a two-way conversations with those who aren’t always able to attend our in-person events,” said Susewind. “People care deeply about the work we do and we want to make it easier for them to tell us what’s on their mind and what’s important to them in their everyday live.”

Introductory topics will include an overview of the department’s work, a summary of legislative session actions that affect WDFW, and how the department is working to address long-term challenges affecting fish and wildlife in Washington.

Director Susewind will also be joined by a number of his staff who share wildlife, fish, law enforcement, and habitat expertise.

The online webinar starts at 7 p.m. The public can go to https://player.invintus.com/?clientID=2836755451&eventID=2019051001 during the event to watch and submit questions. After the event the open house video will remain available from the agency’s website, wdfw.wa.gov.

WDFW Fee Hike Fails, Columbia Endorsement Expires As Lawmakers Pass Budget

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s proposed fee hike failed in the state legislature and the Columbia salmon and steelhead endorsement will expire as lawmakers passed a two-year budget over the weekend.

A high-ranking WDFW official says that $24 million in General Fund revenues have been allocated to the agency for a one-time patch to address in part a $31 million shortfall, which the fishing and hunting license increase would have half filled, but it will take as much as a week to parse through budget documents to figure out all the impacts and ramifications.

“It’s going to take some time to review and discuss with executive management on how best to balance the budget and make decisions on which services will be reduced or eliminated from the areas identified in the zero-based budget analysis,” Nate Pamplin, WDFW’s policy director, said this morning.

Programs that exercise identified as at risk included hatchery operations, hunting and lands management, shellfish enforcement, and wildlife conflict prevention, among others.

Earlier this month WDFW warned that Westside pheasant hunting and Reiter, Whitehorse, Naches, Chelan and Meseberg hatcheries, which together produce 2.6 million steelhead, salmon and trout, were at risk without a fee bill.

The Columbia endorsement, itself a shortfall-filling measure from 2010, brought in $3.3 million every two years and was used to hold and monitor fisheries over Endangered Species Act-listed Chinook, coho, steelhead and other stocks in the big river.

This is the second long session in a row that a WDFW-requested fee bill to plug holes and increase opportunity has failed to be passed.

When 2017’s went down, lawmakers provided a $10 million one-time General Fund hit and required the agency to review its operations for efficiencies and perform that zero-based budgeting exercise.

WDFW also formed a Budget and Policy Group which found broad support for full funding, and last summer the Fish and Wildlife Commission signed off on asking lawmakers for what would have been if passed the first fee hike since 2011 as part of a $60 million package to deal with the shortfall and enhance fishing and hunting, funded with 75 percent General Fund money and 25 percent licenses.

In January, state representatives and senators introduced bills that would have raised fees by 15 percent, with a $7 cap on bundled packages, and extended the Columbia endorsement.

Public hearings were held in February, and while support and concerns were raised, the lower chamber’s bill was given a do-pass recommendation out of the natural resources committee.

But as the Fish and Wildlife Commission moved towards allowing gillnetting in the Columbia again for fall Chinook this year, the bills stalled as members of the fishing community raged over the citizen panel’s early March vote, essentially entangling the measure in the upper chamber like a fall bright in 9-inch mesh.

Earlier this month, lawmakers came out with their operating budget proposals and the fee increase and endorsement were not in the Senate version, though they remained in the House’s.

As the session drew to the April 28 close, last week the original fee bills were revived in committees, but with the Senate’s amended to sunset the fishing increase after six years and given strong policy statements about Columbia fisheries management.

In anticipation of the House bill getting out of the chamber late last week, the Senate Ways and Means Committee listed it on its Saturday morning public hearings docket, but that didn’t happen and signaled time had run on the fee hike.

“I am disappointed that we could not get the General Fund money to be ongoing funding and hope that next session that we can get the agency fully funded,” said Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen), who was the prime sponsor on the House fee bill.

The agency’s overall $508 million passed operating budget does appear to include a $15 million line item for WDFW, utilities and numerous tribes to increase hatchery salmon releases to benefit orcas and upgrade production facilities.

Pamplin said staffers are now going through the 809-page budget, “trying to sort out which fiscal year the various appropriations are placed and understand other aspects and details from the budget.  We’ll also want to discuss with affected staff.”

Part of that was an afternoon all-staff webinar where issues were laid out.

“I’d say it’s going to take at least a week to sort through some of these details,” Pamplin said.

The passed capital budget appears to include $58 million for WDFW for hatchery and other construction projects, as well as several million for improved access, habitat restoration and other lands projects.

We’ll have future blogs on this as more details become available.

WDFW License Bills Moving Again As End Of Regular Legislative Session Nears

After hibernating for the past two months, WDFW’s fee bills have woken up and are moving again, but what will emerges from the den that is the Washington legislature remains to be seen.

Both the House and Senate versions include the 15 percent increase to fishing and hunting licenses and extend the Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsement, but also contain sharp differences that will need to be reconciled before the end of the session.

“This is pretty intense, from zero bills moving to two bills moving,” said Raquel Crosier, WDFW’s legislative liaison, this morning.

The upper chamber’s bill would sunset the angling fee hike after six years, extends the endorsement two years instead of four like the House, and would not allow the Fish and Wildlife Commission to impose surcharges to keep up with rising costs.

That’s different from the Senate’s Operating Budget proposal, released earlier this month without any fee increase or the endorsement and which leaned on General Fund instead.

The lower chamber’s bill, which like the House Operating Budget proposal had the hike and endorsement, would limit the commission’s fee-raising authority to only cover costs lawmakers add to WDFW’s gig and no more than 3 percent in any one year.

Though the Senate version presents something of a fiscal cliff in 2025, the fee increase would produce $14.3 million every two years, the endorsement $3 million.

As for WDFW’s big hopes for a big General Fund infusion to pay for its myriad missions, improve its product and dig out of a $31 million shortfall, any new money it receives will likely be allocated for orcas instead, and that is putting the onus squarely on passing a license increase.

The sudden activity on the fee bills after February’s twin hearings comes with the scheduled Sunday, April 28 end of the session and follows a House Appropriations Committee public hearing yesterday afternoon and an executive session in the Senate’s Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee this morning.

During the House hearing on HB 1708, representatives from the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Northwest Marine Trade Association and Coastal Conservation Association along with some anglers — all still smarting from the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Columbia fishery reforms vote early last month, some at louder volumes than others — voiced opposition to the fee bill though generally said they wanted a fully funded WDFW.

NMTA’s George Harris was among those trying to “thread that needle,” saying he couldn’t support the increase because he didn’t believe the agency had followed through on the reforms or mark-selective fisheries.

SPEAKING IN OPPOSITION TO THE FEE BILL DURING THE HOUSE HEARING ON MONDAY APRIL 22 WERE JASON ZITTEL OF ZITTEL’S MARINA NEAR OLYMPIA WHO SAID THE BURDEN OF FUNDING WDFW COULDN’T CONTINUE TO BE PUSHED ONTO LICENSE HOLDERS WHEN THE PROBLEMS ARE STATEWIDE … (TVW)

… AND CARL BURKE, REPRESENTING NMTA AND NSIA, WHO SAID THAT WHILE ANGLERS PROVIDE SIGNIFICANT FUNDING TO WDFW, “THAT DOESN’T SEEM TO MATTER.” (TVW)

Speaking in favor of full funding, however, was Ron Garner, statewide president of Puget Sound Anglers, member of the WDFW budget advisory group that did a deep dive into the agency’s finances and part of the governor’s orca task force.

“This is not enough money for the agency, and one of the problems is, if we do take this $30 million hit or don’t get the $30 million, what hatcheries are going to get cut next?” Garner said.

WDFW has identified five that could be and which together produce 2.6 million salmon, steelhead and trout.

He said where other state agencies had recovered from General Fund cuts due to the Great Recession, WDFW hadn’t.

“To keep them healthy and the outdoors healthy, we really need to fund it,” Garner said.

RON GARNER OF PUGET SOUND ANGLERS VOICED SUPPORT FOR A FULLY FUNDED WDFW DURING THE HEARING … (TVW)

… AND TOM ECHOLS OF THE HUNTERS HERITAGE COUNCIL SAID IT WAS THE FIRST TIME IN HIS SEVEN YEARS WITH THE UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION THAT IT WAS SUPPORTING A FEE BILL, SPECIFICALLY THE HUNTING SIDE, SAYING THEY BELIEVED IT WAS “TIME TO SUPPORT THE DEPARTMENT’S DIRECTION.” (TVW)

Both committees ultimately gave their versions do-pass recommendations after adopting several amendments, which overall mainly dealt with fallout from the Columbia vote.

The House bill now tells the citizen panel to work with Oregon’s to recover salmon and steelhead in the watershed and WDFW to “work to maximize hatchery production throughout the Columbia River, reduce less selective gear types in the mainstem of the Columbia River and improve the effectiveness of off-channel commercial fishing areas.”

“I support fully funding WDFW so that we can restore hatchery production and restore our fisheries,” said prime sponsor Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) this morning.

And in his natural resources committee earlier today, Chair Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) substantially altered the Senate fee bill, SB 5692, to address those Columbia issues.

An effect statement says his amendments:

  • Specifies Columbia River fishery reforms including improving the selectivity of recreational and commercial fisheries, prioritizing main stem recreational fisheries, and transitioning gill net fisheries to enhanced off-channel areas.
  • Restricts main stem gill net fisheries, effective July 1, 2019, to not exceed six days per year for salmon and steelhead below the Bonneville dam.
  • Directs the DFW to establish an observer program to monitor at least 10 % of the nontribal gill net salmon and steelhead catch on the Columbia River.
  • Directs the DFW to fund activities that maintain or enhance current recreational and fishing activities with fees from recreational fishing and hunting, and expires the requirement on July 1, 2025.
  • Authorizes the DFW to approve trial fisheries for the use of alternative gear for the mark-selective harvest of hatchery-reared salmon and to establish permit fees by rule for alternative gear fisheries.
  • Authorizes the use of pound nets to harvest salmon on the Columbia River and sets the license fee at $380 per year for a resident and $765 for a nonresident

Without getting too wonky and in the weeds, the differences between the House and Senate fee bills must be concurred on, passed by the legislature and signed by the governor before any hike goes into effect. It would be the first since 2011.

WDFW’s Crosier forecasted some “tough conversations in the coming five days” as lawmakers will have to come to an agreement on outstanding policy issues including the Columbia, hatcheries, predators and more, and how to fund her agency.

“I’m feeling optimistic,” she said. “I think this is the closest we’ve gotten. There’s motivation (by legislators) to get something passed, and fees will be a big part of it.”

And without getting too high up on my stump, the end package will also need to show hunters and anglers that there is a better future ahead from the negative malaise currently gripping the state’s sportsmen as more than a century and a half of habitat loss, hatchery production reductions, increasing ESA listings and fishery restrictions, social media, and, simply put, other legislative priorities have come home to roost, most obviously in the plight of starving southern resident killer whales that might also symbolize today’s opportunities.

Hunter Pink Green-lighted For Washington’s Fall Hunting Seasons

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

During this year’s legislative session, pink has become the new orange. On April 10, the state House of Representatives passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB) 5148, a bill expanding orange clothing requirements for hunters to include fluorescent pink. The state Senate had already passed the bill Feb. 20; Gov. Jay Inslee signed it today.

SURROUNDED BY (LEFT TO RIGHT) CHALEE BATUNGBACAL AND DAVID WHIPPLE OF WDFW, AND PRIME SPONSOR SEN. LYNDA WILSON (R) AND HER LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT AMBER HARDTKE AND INTERN INNA VANMATRE, GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE SIGNS THE HUNTER PINK BILL. (STATE OF WASHINGTON)

 “Orange will always be the classic safety color, but I think our state’s hunters can appreciate something new and different – and because fluorescent pink doesn’t blend in with anything else in the forest or field, it also offers the excellent visibility we need for safety,” said Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, a longtime hunter who was prime sponsor of ESSB 5148.

“This idea received unanimous support in the Legislature, and I can see hunter pink being very popular with both women and men, especially because pink is also linked to the fight against breast cancer,” added Wilson, who has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer during the time that her idea has made its way into law. For more information about the bill go to http://lyndawilson.src.wastateleg.org/wilson-bill-to-let-hunters-wear-fluorescent-pink-headed-to-governor/.

Since the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) began requiring hunters to wear hunter orange, hunter injuries and incidents declined significantly in Washington. Fluorescent pink is considered equally visible to hunter orange, and nine other states have passed laws allowing hunters to wear pink clothing for safety.

“By adding fluorescent hunter pink, we are providing more choices to our hunters,” said David Whipple, hunter education division manager. “Women are one of the fastest-growing hunting groups, though we believe that this option will feel inclusionary all to new hunters. This attention is also helping to highlight the safe behaviors for continued reductions in hunter injuries and incidents.”

The current law gives WDFW the authority to adopt rules specifying gear and other hunting equipment. Currently, hunters must wear a minimum of 400 square inches of fluorescent hunter orange exterior clothing during specific hunting seasons.

The new law, like most created this year, will take effect in July. In preparation, WDFW will begin a rule making process to accommodate hunter pink. WDFW is also taking extra steps now to implement the legislation immediately, which allows time for public education and for hunters to buy pink clothing in time for fall deer, elk, and upland bird modern firearm seasons.

Those who wish to learn more about hunter safety can visit our hunter education and requirements page at https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/requirements.

OHA Annual Convention Set For Mid-May in Lincoln City

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON HUNTERS ASSOCIATION

The auction of an Oregon Access and Habitat Statewide Elk Tag – good for a four-month season nearly anywhere in the state, and the drawings for 12 dream hunt raffles for deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and mountain goat will highlight the events when the Oregon Hunters Association’s annual State Convention returns to Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City on May 18.

The statewide elk tag and big game hunt raffles are sponsored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and generate funds earmarked for each species, as well as wildlife habitat and hunting access programs.

The public is welcome to attend the event or bid on the statewide elk tag by telephone the night of the event. For ticket information, visit www.oregonhunters.org. For more information, or to register to bid by phone, contact the OHA state office at (541) 772-7313. Tickets must be purchased by May 8.

Other highlights of the live and silent auctions, which feature more than 100 items, include safaris in Africa and Argentina, North American hunting and fishing trips, getaways, top quality firearms, hunting gear and fine art.

The annual convention is the biggest fund-raising banquet of the year for OHA, the largest Oregon-based pro-hunting group with 26 chapters and 10,000 members statewide.

Other featured raffles at the event will offer more than 100 items worth more than $30,000, including firearms, hunting optics, gear and wildlife art. Raffles include the popular annual Les Schwab Raffle, this year featuring a Sig optics combo, and the new Coastal Farm & Ranch Raffle, featuring a Nosler Custom M48 Liberty rifle.

One OHA membership is required per couple or group. A one-year membership is $35 for individuals and $45 for families and includes a subscription to Oregon Hunter magazine and the Oregon Hunter’s Calendar.

There will be complimentary drawings for kids, ladies, OHA life members and – on Armed Forces Day – our veterans.

All funds raised stay in Oregon to support OHA’s mission of protecting Oregon’s wildlife, habitat and hunting heritage.

 

Brown Sends Oregon Senate List Of 5 New Commission Nominees

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has submitted a slate of Fish and Wildlife Commission candidates to the state Senate for consideration next month.

The field includes a double Purple Heart recipient/Northeast Oregon hunting guide; Willamette Valley winery owner/former Department of Fish and Wildlife staffer; Siletz guide/crabber; chair of the ODFW legislative funding task force; and a Wild Rivers Coast Alliance board of directors member/South Coast rancher.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES LUKEMAN PRESENTS 1ST LT. JIM NASH OF THE 2ND TANK BATTALION WITH ONE OF TWO PURPLE HEART MEDALS HE RECEIVED ON MARCH 6, 2013 FOR WOUNDS SUSTAINED IN A MORTAR ATTACK AND FROM AN IED WHILE DEPLOYED IN AFGHANISTAN. (CPL. AUSTIN LONG, DVIDS)

Those nominees are Capt. James Nash, Jill Zarnowitz, Robert Spelbrink, Mark Labhart, and Mary Wahl.

Nash is a member of a longtime Wallowa County cattle ranching family and served as a Marine Corps tank commander in Afghanistan. He describes his life on the ranch and his duty overseas in a compelling July 2018 video produced by Oregon optics maker Leupold.

Zarnowitz has a master’s degree from the University of Washington in fish and wildlands management and worked on water policy for ODFW, and has been the general manager and now coowner of Stag Hollow Wines outside Yamhill.

Spelbrink guides on the Siletz River and has operated the F/V Alliance fishing commercially for crab as well as salmon and albacore.

Wahl also comes from a ranching family, but in the opposite corner of Oregon, near Langlois. With a masters in public administration from Harvard, she managed toxic cleanups for the state and watershed operations in Portland before retiring “to focus on conservation efforts on Oregon’s south coast,” according to her commission application.

And Labhart worked for the Oregon Department of Forestry, served on a board looking into sudden oak death syndrome issues, retired after several years as a Tillamook County Commissioner, and chaired the state legislature’s task force that looked for ways to better fund ODFW before moving to Sisters.

They are scheduled to be considered by the Senate Rules Committee on May 8.

At full strength, Oregon’s commission has seven members, one from each of the state’s five Congressional districts, a sixth from west of the Cascades, the seventh from east of the crest.

Currently there is one open seat while the terms of Chair Michael Finley of Medford and members Holly Akenson of Enterprise and Bruce Buckmaster of Astoria all expire in the coming two months.

The nomination of Buckmaster four springs ago sparked well-founded unease amongst the sportfishing industry, though he was ultimately confirmed by the Senate. His term isn’t being extended for a second four years, but Brown has nominated him to serve on the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board — where he had been the Fish and Wildlife Commission representative since last year — in an at-large seat, according to a member of the governor’s staff.

The terms of Jim Bittle of Central Point and Greg Wolley of Portland run into next year, while that of Bob Webber of Port Orford had been extended past the end of his second term in February 2018 until new commissioners are named, when his service will end, according to the official.

Editor’s note, 9 a.m. April 22, 2019: The last two paragraphs have been tweaked to clarify that Mr. Buckmaster’s appointment to the watershed board would essentially transition from being the representative of the Fish and Wildlife Commission to a public at-large position if confirmed, and that Mr. Webber’s extended term on the commission would end in mid-May after Senate confirmation of new members.