Commission Reviews Big Game Hunting Regulations for 2005
The number of tags allocated for limited entry deer and elk hunts are proposed to decline for 2004, while limited entry tags for bighorn sheep, mountain goat, pronghorn and bear are proposed to increase, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission heard Friday. A final decision is expected June 11 in Baker City.
The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in the state. The seven-member panel meets monthly. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife implements the policies of the Commission.
ODFW provided the Commission with an informational briefing Friday on all proposals for 2004 season limited entry tag numbers and 2005 proposed season dates and regulations. Public meetings will continue to be held on various dates through May 20, giving members of the public an opportunity to comment on all proposals before the Commission makes any final decisions.
In Oregon, two types of hunting seasons are authorized: general seasons and controlled seasons. During the controlled seasons, the number of tags is limited and hunters must apply for them by May 15. There is no limit to the number of general season tags sold.
The Commission heard the following proposals and updates:
A 22 percent proposed reduction in tags is based on an apparent decline of black-tailed deer numbers. More than 700 individuals attended recent public meetings to discuss black-tailed deer season options. After 18 months of analysis and public comment, the Commission directed ODFW to implement several strategies for black-tailed deer management including completion of a species management plan by the summer of 2006. Other strategies are:
*Western Oregon general rifle season was shortened from 40 to 35 days starting in 2004;
* Western Oregon 600 series hunts will start the day after the Cascade Elk Season ends and run through the end of the General Buck Season;
* A bag limit changed from “one buck deer” to “one buck deer having not less than a forked antler” for western Oregon early and late archery season for 2004;
* Elimination of third deer opportunity hunts (800 series) starting with 2005 seasons. All remaining 800 series preference points converted to 600 series points; and
* Continued reduction in antlerless tags as appropriate with remaining hunts focusing primarily on damage.
ODFW is proposing a 4 percent increase in spring bear tags for 2005 and one new hunt in south central Oregon because statewide bear populations are stable to increasing.
Due to increasing and expanding populations from an aggressive trap and transplant program, proposals to increase 2004 tag allotments by 10 percent are being considered. One new hunt and an expanded boundary for two additional hunts also are being proposed for 2005. Because the boundary expansion is significant, the hunts will be renamed.
Rocky Mountain goat
Rocky Mountain goat populations are increasing in the Wallowa and Elkhorn Mountains as a result of reintroduction efforts. ODFW proposes five tags for 2004, in three hunt areas, which is up from the four allocated in 2003. Two new hunts also are being proposed for 2005. Rocky Mountain goat tags are the most difficult tags to draw in the state with more than 1,000 applicants for each tag available.
Pronghorn populations continue to improve, especially in south central Oregon. Proposed tag numbers are up 4 percent for 2004.
A second Mule deer bow hunting season is proposed for Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. Both seasons are proposed to be changed so tags would not be valid during the general bow season. ODFW also proposes to delete four antlerless hunts and add one new antlerless hunt for 2005. Three “additional deer” hunts (800 series) are to be deleted in 2005. The two hunts deleted in the Melrose Unit will be replaced with 600 series antlerless hunts.
Statewide deer tags are proposed to be reduced by 13 percent. Reasons for the decline in tag numbers include lower recruitment ratios and disease-related mortality.
Two subspecies of elk occur in Oregon. Roosevelt’s elk inhabit western portions of the state while Rocky Mountain elk are found in eastern Oregon. Several proposals are being considered that would affect hunting opportunity and tag availability across the state. Proposals include:
* 5 percent decline in controlled rifle bull and either sex tags;
* 16 percent decrease in controlled rifle tags for antlerless elk;
* Two new rifle bull hunts or either sex hunts and one rifle bull hunt to be deleted in 2005;
* New antlerless hunts in 2005 to address damage complaints on both agricultural lands and managed timberlands;
* Five antlerless hunts to be modified with boundary changes;
* Four hunts to be deleted in southwest Oregon and replaced with eight hunts in 2005; and
* Deletion of three Astoria-area north hunts, expanding the boundary and replacing the hunts with three new Astoria-area north hunts.
Proposal to expand cougar tag area from the Blue Mountains to include all of eastern Oregon.
Permanent Disability Permits
Since 1988, ODFW has issued permanent disability permits to hunters who qualify, allowing expanded hunting opportunities. Between 1988 and 1999, the Commission defined eligible people as those who were permanently unable to move without the assistance of a wheelchair. In 1999, the Oregon State Legislature expanded the definition of disability to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since the 1999 statutory change, ODFW has documented a significant increase in the number of hunters holding these permits. As a result, a work group of hunters, advocates for people with disabilities, ODFW and Oregon State Police will examine the disability permit program and share informational findings with Commissioners at their September meeting.
Archery Hunting Review
The Commission will hear final recommendations from the Archery Hunting Review Committee this October on a variety of issues related to bowhunting opportunities. The Archery Hunting Review Committee first met in May 2003 to discuss season and bag limit equitability, wounding losses, harvest, crowding, timing of seasons and competition from out-of-state hunters. The committee was composed of representatives from sporting groups, the forest industry, federal land managers, guides and packers, hunters at large and Oregon State Police. Potential strategies were developed for each issue and results are currently being compiled from an opinion survey of randomly selected Oregon hunters.
In addition, hunters are reminded that the deadline for purchasing controlled hunt and general season tags is the day before the hunt begins.
Commission hears briefing on 2005-2006 groundfish proposals
Sport harvest of nearshore groundfish in 2005-06 is proposed to remain conservative and the same as 2004, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission heard Friday. The commercial groundfish harvest also is proposed to remain conservative to allow the rebuilding of low populations of several groundfish species.
For the recreational season, in-season rule changes could be adopted if impacts to yelloweye and canary rockfish are lower or higher than expected. The sport fishery is currently open inside the 40-fathom curve all year. Outside of the 40-fathom curve, the sport season is closed June 1 – Sept. 30. The daily sport bag limit is 10 marine fish, including rockfish, greenling, cabezon, Pacific halibut and other species. Retention of yelloweye and canary rockfish is not allowed.
For the commercial seasons, several options are being considered to help Oregon’s commercial fishing fleet while meeting the mandate to reduce bycatch. Options include: time and area closures, closing specific “hot” areas of concentrated, overfished species, regional management by states and replacing the current legal small footrope trawl gear with a selective flatfish trawl gear in the nearshore.
Commercial and sport nearshore species season harvest caps and trip limits will be proposed later in the year, after the 2004 nearshore species harvest results are analyzed.
The Oregon Commission will adopt 2005-2006 rules for the area between the shore and three miles Sept. 10. The Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet in mid-June to adopt rules for those areas outside of three miles.
Commission Approves Six Fish Restoration and Enhancement Grants
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission approved $966,775 in grant awards for six projects that restore or enhance fisheries.
Revenue for the grants comes from a $2 surcharge on fishing licenses. The Restoration and Enhancement Board reviews project proposals and makes funding recommendations to the Commission.
Approved projects include:
* Hatchery Research Center: $314,00 toward repair and modification to the existing ladder and trap to comply with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Fisheries screens and passage requirements and meet fish trapping and passage requirements of the new Hatchery Research Center;
* Hatchery Research Center : $526,000 toward repair and modification to the upstream water intake structure to meet the needs of the Hatchery Research Center ;
* Smith Creek: $8,500 to replace a fish-barrier culvert and restore access for native salmon and trout to an additional 1.5 miles of quality spawning and rearing habitat in Smith Creek, a tributary of the Nestucca River;
* Prineville Reservoir: $1,750 to investigate the potential for large-scale re-vegetation of the Prineville Reservoir drawdown zone;
* Chewaucan River (Lakeview): $73,393 to provide upstream passage at the Narrows Weir, which is the lowest of three weirs on the Chewaucan River ; and
* Willow Valley Reservoir: $43,132 to create habitat using structures made from donated juniper trees and rocks.
Two new members appointed to Wolf Advisory Committee
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Friday appointed two new members to the Wolf Advisory Committee to represent the interests of educators and public land managers and replace two members who had to resign.
Bret Michalski, an assistant professor at Central Oregon Community College , was appointed to represent the educator position. Kurt Wiedenmann, a district ranger in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest , was appointed to represent the public land manager position.
Michalski replaces Oregon State University professor Dan Edge who resigned when appointed to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to avoid any conflict of interest. Wiedenmann replaces U.S. Forest Service ranger Meg Mitchell who resigned because she has taken a new job in Washington D.C.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission appointed the 14-member Wolf Advisory Committee in 2003 to help study all the issues surrounding wolves in Oregon and to recommend management actions that will be used once a permanent population establishes itself. The Commission decided to proactively develop a wolf management plan so the state is prepared for the expected arrival of wolves from Idaho .
The Commission also heard a briefing on the progress of the Wolf Advisory Committee’s work. To date, the committee has discussed 11 of the expected 15 chapters to be included in the final Wolf Management Plan. However, significant work is left to do, said Craig Ely, the lead staff person from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife work with the committee.
Ely said the committee plans to complete its work in late August. A draft plan will be presented to the Commission in October before being released for public review at public meetings in October and/or November. Final adoption of the plan into administrative rule is expected to occur in January 2005.
No wolves are confirmed to be in Oregon at this time. However, numerous unconfirmed sightings have been documented. Anyone who thinks they have seen a wolf should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bend at (541) 312-6429.
In other action, the Commission accepted a petition to consider early razor clam closure on Clatsop County beaches. Reinstate a developmental fishery permit because events beyond the control of the petitioner, Paul Evich, prevented him from meeting the required landing limits.