Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission Approves Major Land Acquisition, Amends Game-import Rules

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The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved acquisition of 7,711 acres of wildlife habitat in Kittitas County and amended rules on importation of harvested game at a meeting here today.

The citizen commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the acquisition as the second phase of the “Heart of the Cascades” project that adds over 10,000 acres to WDFW’s 47,200-acre Oak Creek Wildlife Area.

Last year, 2,675 acres were acquired in the Bald Mountain/Rock Creek area, about 25 miles northwest of Yakima on the east slope of the Cascade Mountains. This year’s acquisition involves purchase of 3,807 acres from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for $2,325,000 and 3,904 acres from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) for $2,317,000.

Funding for the new acquisition comes from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through a Habitat Conservation Plan grant.

Ranging from 2,500 to 6,000 feet in elevation, the property has a wide diversity of habitats, including coniferous forests, basalt cliffs, shrub-steppe and riparian areas. It supports many federal- and state-protected species, including spotted owls, bull trout and steelhead, as well as many game species, including elk, bighorn sheep and mountain goats.

The property will be managed with support from TNC, RMEF and the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative—a coalition of public, non-profit and tribal land managers—to share the estimated $123,500 annual operation and maintenance costs.

In other action, the commission amended existing restrictions on the importation of harvested deer, elk and moose from states where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been confirmed. Maryland and Minnesota were added to the list of 13 states and two Canadian provinces where CWD has been confirmed in wild populations. Deer, elk or moose carcasses from those states can only be brought into Washington as boned-out meat, with all soft tissue removed from skulls and antlers, and hides or capes without heads attached. Rules are detailed in Washington Administrative Code 232-12-021.

In addition, the commission heard a briefing on how WDFW monitors deer and elk herds and how the department responds if a herd decline is detected. The commission also was briefed on the revised structure and function of the agency’s Habitat Program.

During a Nov. 3 special meeting, the commission held a work session on WDFW’s recommended Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, and took comments from more than 65 people. The session was the fourth and final public review of the plan by the commission since August.

The plan was developed over the last four years with the help of a 17-member citizen advisory group and has undergone extensive public review. It is designed to guide both recovery of a sustainable population and conflict management of gray wolves, which are returning on their own to Washington. The gray wolf is protected by the state as an endangered species across Washington and is also federally protected under the Endangered Species Act in the western two-thirds of Washington.

The plan is available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/. The final written comment deadline is Nov.18. The commission is scheduled to take action on the plan at its Dec. 2-3 meeting in Olympia.

Comments

hunter25's picture

It's great to see more land

It's great to see more land being put aside like this and that the game department actuallt has the funds to make it happen. Inmany places we have lost hunting lands due to land swaps with big ranches where they get 2 or more acres for everyone they trade away. The reson has always been that the land traded was of litle use to the public and more benifit is available in the new parcel. I don't really believe that's the reason as I've lost some very good hunting land with good access over the years only to see houses or cows usinf it later. Anyway everytime I see more land getting opened up it's a good thing and I hope more states are abel to make it happen also with the different programs they have. Wyoming does a great job with thiers.

Retired2hunt's picture

  Two great additional

 

Two great additional acreage purchased made by the state of Washington for future hunting abilities for their state's hunters.  Each at about $600 an acre is a great deal and not taking advantage of the WDFW and those providing the dollars for the land purchases.  These lands were purchased from organizations that have the same focus.  Lands purchased from private owners tend to cost the state's DNR/DOW far greater dollars per acre as seen in some previous articles.

It is also great that the state is almost finished with a Gray Wolf management program.  With the other states that have succeeded in their management of these wolves it will only be a matter of time when the state of Washington will be able to delist these animals and generate the complete management of them to include a hunting season.