Upcoming fish and wildlife commission meeting features numerous local issues

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to hear updates on wolf, cougar, and bear management, and a number of proposed revisions to fishing regulations at its October meeting.

The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will meet Oct. 18-19 at the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. SE in Olympia.

Included in the meeting will be a discussion on a proposed acquisition of the second and final phase of the Grayland Project. This land purchase would  add approximately 560 acres of habitat and recreation land to the Elk River Unit of the Johns River Wildlife Area near Westport. The appraised value of this property is $1,070,000. That acquisition is funded by a Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO), Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP), and the Critical Habitat grant.

Following that discussion, the commission will hear a briefing on progress to address whale entanglements in the coastal crab fishery, and proposed measures for the 2019-2020 season intended to reduce the risk of entanglements.

Also on the agenda, fish managers will brief the commission on a number of proposed changes to fishing regulations, including a status update on the Willapa Bay Salmon Management Policy, opening a section of the Colville River to year-round fishing, updates to recreational sturgeon fishing, and the latest round of the department’s rule simplification proposals affecting marine fish, shellfish, and forage fish.

Commissioners will also hear an update on the implementation of House Bill 1579, which directs WDFW to adopt rules liberalizing the bag limits for bass, walleye, and catfish in many waters throughout the state. This language was passed in part to implement task force recommendations meant to increase the abundance of Chinook salmon for the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population.

The commission will hear public testimony on all of these proposals; the public can also comment electronically at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/season-setting.

The commission will also hear a briefing and public comment on proposed amendments to the spring black bear rule (WAC 220-415-080). The proposed amendments include minor permit adjustments in southeast Washington GMUs, mandatory check in of bears harvested, and some boundary clarifications.

During Saturday’s meeting, staff will brief the commission on current cougar management. The briefing will include how the department currently manages cougars, the science behind it and comparison to neighboring states.

A full agenda is available online at wdfw.wa.gov/about/commission/meetings.

TVW will live stream the meetings at tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2019101048 (Friday) and tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2019101051 (Saturday).