OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission heard updates for spring black bear hunting, cougar management, and proposed fishing regulation changes at their Oct. 18-19 meeting.
The commission approved three land transactions, including 560 acres in Grays Harbor County, 900 acres in Yakima County, and the Fir Island Farm Easement in Skagit County. The acquisitions in Grays Harbor and Yakima counties are expected to offer hunting and other recreational opportunities, while improving conservation for a variety of species. The Fir Island Farm transaction will help facilitate a restoration project expected to significantly contribute to the recovery of Skagit Chinook salmon.
Fishery managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) briefed the commission on a number of fishing rule proposals, including changes to sturgeon regulations and the department's ongoing efforts to simplify its fishing rules statewide.
The commission also heard public comment following an update on the department's efforts to liberalize limits on bass, walleye, and channel catfish in waters throughout the state, a requirement passed by the state Legislature this spring as part of House Bill 1579, with the intent of implementing task force recommendations to benefit the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population.
The fishing rule proposals included summaries of WDFW's work to collect public comment, including at in-person public meetings around the state. The commission will consider the public's comments and testimony before staff brings recommendations at the December commission meeting in Bellingham.
Staff also presented changes to the current spring black bear season. Some of the changes include increased permits in several GMUs, elimination of permits in one hunt area, and adding mandatory reporting for spring black bear hunters. The commission is expected to make a decision on this item during their conference call in November.
The commission also heard updates on the department's work to update rules for commercial crab fisheries to protect humpback whales from entanglement. The commission has scheduled this item for their January meeting, and the agency is pursuing the funds to implement this item as part of its 2020 supplemental legislative request.
In addition, the commission heard staff presentations about how WDFW currently manages cougars for hunting opportunities. The commission will consider changes to the cougar hunting guidelines in a future 2020 meeting. The commission also heard an update on how WDFW conflict management and enforcement programs provide for the public's safety in relation to cougars.
A full broadcast of the meeting is available to the public at www.tvw.org.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the WDFW.