Tag Archives: Yakama Nation

Washington Wildlife Commission To Hear About Eastside’s Pronghorns

Pronghorns popping up on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission agenda for this weekend’s meetings got my hunter’s heart racing.

“Just a briefing on status or should we look for something along the lines of potential permit hunt development?” I asked state speedgoat manager Richard Harris.

He got back to me pretty quickly and tempered my enthusiasm somewhat.

“Just a briefing, at the request of the Commission. Premature for the latter …,” Harris replied via email.

Dangit!

Still, if you’re interested in the expansion of antelope herds in the eastern half of the Evergreen State, his presentation to the citizen panel does make for some interesting viewing.

Its 26 pages covers the native species’ history, its extirpation by the very early 1900s, and state (mid-1900s) and tribal (2000s) reintroduction efforts, as well as maps showing where those captured in Nevada and released onto the Yakama and Colville Reservations with GPS collars primarily range and have wandered.

Some on the former reservation have gone as far east as I-82 between Tri-Cities and the Columbia, and as far south as almost to the giant landfill above Roosevelt in Klickitat County.

Some on the latter have gone as far south as near the mouth of Moses Coulee.

A HERD OF PRONGHORN ANTELOPE ON ALERT ON THE FROZEN TUNDRA OF NORTHERN DOUGLAS COUNTY, WASH. (ERIC BRAATEN, WDFW)

The presentation also touches on population monitoring (last summer we reported there were roughly 250 out there, and WDFW and the Yakamas are planning another joint late-January survey), landowner issues (pronghorns are prone to alfalfa addictions), and the state’s existing policies.

The request for a briefing came from Commissioner Kim Thorburn of Spokane, and with one-third of the antelope in Washington now occupying ground where WDFW has jurisdiction, Harris will brief the commission on future steps, which includes:

• Preliminary management plans for both Upper Columbia Basin and Lower Columbia Basin pronghorn groups
• Work closely with Tribes to develop complementary plans and strategies
• Public meetings to gather input and suggestions
Whether or not the tribal reintroductions ever result in limited state hunts, it’s still one to keep an eye on if you’re a Washington wildlife world watcher.

 

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Columbia Sea Lion Bill Passed By US Senate

The U.S. Senate has passed a key bill that would make it easier for state and tribal managers to protect ESA-listed salmon and steelhead in the Lower Columbia from California sea lions.

AN AERIAL IMAGE FROM SHOWS CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS FEEDING IN THE LOWER COLUMBIA. (STEVE JEFFRIES, WDFW, VIA NWFSC)

“What a day!” said an almost-speechless Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association this afternoon. “Maybe we’ll be able to stave off some extinctions.”

S.3119, known as the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Act, does need to be reconciled with a nearly identical version that was passed by the US House and be signed into law before the end of the year by President Trump, but it’s good news for fish and fishermen who’ve watched helplessly as sea lions have chowed down on Chinook, coho, steelhead and other stocks.

It amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act for five years to allow for the lethal removal of California sea lions in the Columbia downstream of Bonneville Dam and upstream to McNary Dam,  as well as in the river’s tributaries with ESA-listed salmonids.

“It’s such an important piece of legislation,” said Hamilton. “So little gets done, especially for fish.”

A Northwest Power and Conservation Council report from late last month said that NOAA researchers found sea lions ate from 11 to 43 percent of spring Chinook that entered the Columbia annually since 2010, with 2014’s run hit particularly hard — an estimated  104,333 ESA-listed Upper Columbia springers “were lost between Astoria and the dam to the unexplained mortality, which the chief researcher, Dr. Michelle Wargo-Rub, said can be attributed to sea lions.”

The states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho have had federal permission to remove specific animals gathered at Bonneville Dam since March 2008. This bill extends that authority to the Yakama, Nez Perce, Umatilla and Warm Springs Tribes and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

Today’s move also follows on federal fishery overseers’ recent move to allow ODFW to remove sea lions at Willamette Falls, where if nothing had been done, the state estimated that at least one run of wild winter steelhead had a 90 percent chance of going extinct.

Earlier this year, NMFS found that California sea lions had reached their habitat’s carrying capacity. Almost all if not all that visit the Northwest to snack on salmonids are males.

Hamilton credited a “a coalition like no other” for the heavy lift.

In Congress, that came from a bipartisan group of Northwest lawmakers — Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Jim Risch (R-ID) to get the bill through the upper chamber after Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3) and Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-5) sponsored one in the House.

“We greatly appreciate the bipartisan efforts of Senators Cantwell and Risch to secure Senate passage of this critical legislation,” said Gary Loomis, founder of G-Loomis, Edge Rods, and Coastal Conservation Association in the Pacific Northwest, in a press release. “Current law is failing wild and endangered Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead populations, some of which face an imminent risk of extinction if nothing is done to address the unnatural levels of sea lion predation and restore balance to this unique Ecosystem. Every member of the U.S. House of Representatives – Republican and Democrat – from Oregon, Washington, and Idaho voted for similar legislation this summer and the six U.S. Senators from these states came together to pass this critical legislation to protect our salmon.”

According to CCA’s Tyler Comeau, the bill was passed by “unanimous consent,” expediting its passage through the Senate for lack of objections. He said his organization believes it will become law.

Even as Hamilton shed “tears of joy,” she was quick to point out the efforts of staffers at state fish and wildlife agencies — Meagan West at WDFW and Dr. Shaun Clements at ODFW.

“It was the scientists, Dr. Shaun Clements, that kept the conservation front and center,” said Hamilton.

We have reached out to WDFW and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission for comment and will fold those in when they arrive, but for his part, Clements said ODFW was “very relieved to have achieved this major milestone thanks to the support of the Northwest Senate delegation.”

“Passing this legislation to amend the MMPA is critical to ensuring we don’t have another repeat of Ballard Locks, which saw the extirpation of a wild steelhead run as a result of predation by a  handful of sea lions,” Clements said, in reference to Herschel et al’s 1980s’ feeding frenzy on Lake Washington watershed-bound winter-runs.

“Removing sea lions is not something we take lightly,” he added, “but it is unfortunately necessary as we are seeing some salmon, steelhead, and potentially sturgeon populations in the Columbia being pushed to the point of no return. We very much appreciate the efforts of the entire delegation, and particularly Senators Risch and Cantwell for recognizing the urgency and passing a bill that will allow both fish and sea lions to thrive.”

Hamilton also noted the importance of the diversity of the conservation community that came together, members such as the Wild Salmon Center.

“I’m convinced it made a lot of difference,” she said.

Sea lions aren’t nearly the only problem impacting returns of ESA-listed salmon and steelhead, Hamilton acknowledged, but this is good news for the fish that live in or return to the region’s most important river.

But there’s also work to be done elsewhere in the region. WDFW staffers are expected to brief the Fish and Wildlife Commission late next week on the impact sea lions as well as harbor seals are having in other Washington waters. Frustrations are boiling over and Puget Sound where more than 10 sea lions have been illegally shot and killed this fall.

Nearly 100 Pronghorn Released On North-central Washington Reservation

Just under 100 pronghorn were let loose on the Colville Reservation in late October, according to tribal wildlife managers.

It’s the second batch of the native but extirpated species that has been released on the sprawling North-central Washington reservation in the past two years.

The Colville Tribes Fish and Wildlife Department announced the release in a short Facebook post.

PRONGHORN ANTELOPE ORIGINALLY RELEASED ON THE COLVILLE RESERVATION IN JANUARY 2016 MADE THEIR WAY SOUTH ACROSS THE COLUMBIA INTO DOUGLAS COUNTY BY THAT WINTER. (ERIC BRAATEN, WDFW)

As with January 2016’s 52, the latest transplants were originally captured in Nevada, as were 99 that went to the Yakama Reservation in South-central Washington in January 2011.

Dozens of those pronghorns swam across the Columbia to Douglas County last year and were said to be hanging out on CRP lands.

At least 14 collared animals died.

Well to the south, mid-March 2017 aerial surveys in Benton, Klickitat and Yakima Counties turned up 116 antelope — 44 on Yakama lands and 72 outside those borders — with a population estimate of 121.

“Both the Yakama Nation and WDFW consider that the population will require at least a few more years of growth before recreational harvest should be considered,” reads a state report.

Tribal Fishing Platforms Built At Wind River Mouth

Tribal fishing platforms were recently erected at the mouth of the Wind River, squeezing in at a famed, productive and very small bank fishing spot for spring Chinook.

While this year’s run is running late due to huge flows, and the Wind forecast of 3,600 is on the low side, salmon numbers are building at Bonneville, where more than 250 have been counted so far this year, and it won’t be long before some pull into the drowned mouth of this Washington-side Columbia Gorge tributary.

A NEWLY CONSTRUCTED TRIBAL FISHING PLATFORM AT THE MOUTH OF THE WIND RIVER. STATE AND YAKAMA OFFICIALS SAY IT IS THE FIRST TIME THE WOODEN STRUCTURES HAVE BEEN BUILT HERE, AND THEY ARE ALLOWED UNDER TRIBAL FISHING REGULATIONS. THE RUB WILL COME AS SPRING CHINOOK ARRIVE AND FISHERS OF ALL NATIONS CONGREGATE AT THE PRODUCTIVE BANK SPOT. (BRAD COLLINS)

On good days dozens of anglers will try their luck at The Point, sometimes called Cranky Banky Point, that basalt bone that sticks out into the Wind as it reaches the Columbia.

When the Bonneville Pool is lower, there’s room to accommodate more anglers, but when dam operators are holding back water or dealing with large volumes, there’s less.

The concern is that the two approximately 6-foot-by-6-foot platforms will leave even less place for nontribal fishermen to huck their plugs and other lures for hatchery springers. They set up potential gear conflicts and babysitting hassles for state and tribal game wardens.

BANK ANGLERS CAST PLUGS OFF THE POINT DURING 2011’S SPRING CHINOOK FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

This morning, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates several Chinook hatcheries in the area, was referring calls to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s regional office in Vancouver.

According to WDFW Capt. Jeff Wickersham, the wooden structures were put up by Yakama Nation fishers. He said it was a legal activity in the tribes’ usual and accustomed fishing area.

Through a spokesman, he added he believes it is the first time that they’ve been erected at this particular spot on the Wind (there is a tribal in-lieu fishing site upstream), though in 2011 some were installed upriver inside Drano Lake, causing a stir for awhile.

Wickersham says that tribal members can’t obstruct or displace state anglers to build one, and that the structures are basically treated like a fisherman who got to a spot first.

That means tribal members have de facto claimed at least two locations on the point for the season.

A RECENT IMAGE TAKEN FROM OFF HIGHWAY 14 SHOWS THE TWO NEW SCAFFOLDS PUT UP ON THE POINT. (BRAD COLLINS)

THIS IMAGE FROM 2011’S SPRING CHINOOK FISHERY SHOWS A LONE BANK ANGLER ON THE POINT, WHILE BOATS WORK THE DROWNED MOUTH OF THE WIND RIVER ON A RAINY DAY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The point is private property, owned by Carson Acres LLC, Skamania County tax records show. Anglers access it by walking in on trails from Highway 14.

According to Roger Dick Jr., harvest coordinator for the Yakama Nation, tribal regulations have always allowed for platforms at Wind, and the Yakamas are the only tribe with treaty-reserved fishing rights there.

“The platforms are the property of the YN fishers and the platforms are only to be used by YN members because they are used for treaty fishing. YN rules do not allow non-YN members to exercise YN treaty rights, which includes use of gear/equipment,” he says.

WITH WIND MOUNTAIN AS A BACKDROP, AN IMAGE FROM THE POINT SHOWS TWO NEW TRIBAL FISHING PLATFORMS THERE. (BRAD COLLINS)

He says that in other areas where there are tribal platforms, such as in the John Day Dam tailrace, it’s “commonly understood” they’re only for tribal fishers.

However, as he confirms, it’s a first they’ve been put up here, which may cause confusion, angst and anger.

More platforms are reported to be being built on the Wind above the Highway 14 and Burlington Northern Sante Fe bridges.

According to the Yakamas’ 2017 fishing regulations, members can fish the lower Wind through June 25, from noon on Monday through 6 p.m. on Saturdays. Fishing is not allowed on Sundays there or elsewhere, for “conservation purposes.”

Dick Jr. explains that poles with rope hanging off of them are used to hang hoopnets, or setnets, the primary way Yakama fishers harvest salmon, though they can also use hook-and-line methods.

GEAR FOR SETNETTING STANDS READY UNDERNEATH A NEWLY BUILT TRIBAL FISHING PLATFORM AT WIND RIVER. (BRAD COLLINS)

The Yakamas’ openness to answering questions this go-around contrasts sharply with what occurred during 2011, when similar platforms popped up at Drano Lake, where the tribe also has treaty fishing rights. Reporters were unable to get comment from tribal officials on what was going on.

Then, anglers and WDFW worried the structures reduced the already limited bank fishing area on the lake even more, as not everyone in Northwest anglerdom has a sled, drift boat or other craft to troll for springers from. And just as tribes can claim long histories of fishing, so too do nontribal anglers have lengthy relationships with good spots. One platform sat by a new handicapped fishing access spot.

Since 2011, however, things quieted down at Drano (in spring 2012, Yakama officials issued at least two statements on the platforms there). Dick Jr. says the Yakamas have another fishery there — the Wednesday closure for netting — and that smaller returns limit the opportunities. He says the tribal council considers cultural, social and economic factors in determining whether to allow platforms there.

As it stands, passive integrated transponder, or PIT tag, data shows no Wind springers having arrived at Bonneville yet (1.3 and 2.7 percent of four- and five-year-old Carson National Fish Hatchery juveniles were PIT tagged before they went to sea).

So for the moment, the platforms at the  mouth of the Wind are just being buffeted by the breezes blowing through the Columbia Gorge, though as this year’s run grows, things could get stormier.

Editor’s notes: 1) Hat tip to JH for the story forward. 2) This blog was updated April 14, 2017, to clarify WDFW Capt. Jeff Wickersham’s comments that this is the first time that platforms were built at the point. There is a tribal in-lieu fishing site upstream on the Wind from there. 3) This blog was subsequently updated April 17, 2017 to include links to 2011 and 2012 articles on platforms erected at Drano Lake.