A land purchase in Westport and local salmon policy up for review this week

This week, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will discuss a number of topics that impact our region. At their upcoming meeting, salmon management in Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay, hatchery reform, and several land transactions are on their agenda.

WDFW fish managers will also provide an update on the progress of the Willapa Bay Salmon Management Policy comprehensive review. That policy, approved by the commission in 2015, prioritizes recreational chinook fisheries in Willapa Bay while focusing commercial fishery opportunities on coho and chum salmon.

Also at the meeting, state fishery managers will provide an overview of last year’s salmon fisheries in Grays Harbor, including an assessment of harvest levels and conformance with conservation objectives.

After staff presentations, the commission will take public input on both the Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor policies.

In other business, commissioners will consider three transactions, including the acquisition of 1,100 acres to protect waterfowl habitat near Westport in partnership with Duck Unlimited.

“The property encompasses a diversity of unique natural resources including saltwater estuarine habitats, old growth Douglas fir stands and cedar grove forests, and fresh water wetlands and ponds. This offers year-round habitat for Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, black bear, cougar, salmon and numerous waterfowl and other bird species.This property will provide new  hunting and other recreational opportunities.

The appraised value of this property is $ 2,093,000 of which $763,000 is being provided through USFWS Coastal and State Migratory Waterfowl grants. An additional $1,330,000 is being provided through Ducks Unlimited Coastal grant. O & M here is expected to be $ 57,720 annually.”

Also being considered, the purchase of an 80-acre conservation easement to protect Mazama pocket gopher habitat in Thurston County, and an easement to Ferry County for wellhead protection.

According to a report, WDFW staff will also provide an update at the meeting on a review of the state’s hatchery and fishery reform policy. They say the review is intended to “improve hatchery effectiveness, ensure compatibility between hatchery production and salmon recovery plans, and support sustainable fisheries”. The public will have the opportunity to comment during the Friday meeting.

To meet conservation objectives, WDFW requires the release of any wild chinook salmon in these fisheries and manages fishing seasons to hold mortality rates for those fish within a prescribed limit. WDFW staff will seek guidance from the commission on priorities for the 2019-20 season.

Additionally, the commission is scheduled to take action on proposed wildlife-rehabilitation rules and will hear a briefing on the Lower Columbia River sturgeon population and proposed 2019 fisheries.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will meet Feb. 8-9 in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. SE, Olympia. The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. both days.

A full agenda is available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html.

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