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Washington Article in Seattle Examiner on DFW

Old 01-14-2011, 12:18 PM
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Default Washington Article in Seattle Examiner on DFW

New Year - new threats from Gov.and legislature as to Mergers
Here is a Great article that I agree with TOTALLY!! Check it out.

Washington Fish & Wildlife Director Phil Anderson is currently making the rounds to discuss the agency’s budget woes, the proposed merger with the Parks Commission (which I wrote about here) and his recommendations for license fee hikes.
Yesterday’s on-line blog at Northwest Sportsman magazine discussed his appearance before a packed house in Spokane. Alas, it appeared too much of the “same-old same old” that leaves this column convinced the agency and its management team are stubbornly stuck to a philosophy that has been, in the eyes of the agency’s critics, a proven course for disaster. That disaster is upon us, with the proposed merger that would reduce the Fish & Wildlife Commission to an advisory panel, put authority for setting fishing and hunting seasons in the hands of the director (and his staff), and essentially put anglers and especially hunters farther away from the table. Folks over at the Hunting Washington forum are not terribly impressed.
When this column half-kidded about taking over as governor back on Nov. 4, we talked about rolling back the clock, an idea that gets nothing but resistance in Olympia because it attacks the very management structure that has brought us to the crisis at hand.
Anderson has written a column in the current issue of Northwest Sportsman, available on newsstands now. In it he explains the justification for seeking hikes in hunting and fishing license fees and reducing programs to cut agency costs. Anderson called me a while back. I hadn’t spoken to him in many years; back in the days when he was in the charter fishing business and I was writing the Washington edition of the now-defunct Fishing & Hunting News. We chatted for a bit about how to save the agency. He promised to trade e-mails and ideas. I’m still watching my Inbox.
In 1980, according to data from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, this state fielded 360,684 paid license-holding hunters. By 1990, that number had slipped to 268,653 license holders and in 2000, USFWS data shows 214,969 paid license holders. The number in 2010 was 209,050 (up from the 194,308 licenses reported for 2005, according to the USFWS website).
What has happened?
Regulations have changed, seasons have been shifted to reduce opportunity and harvest, and a lot of hunters are convinced they’ve gotten more than one raw deal from the agency they once trusted.
It boils down to mathematics and suspicion. The state has lost almost half of its hunters since 1980, yet opportunities have not increased for those who remain to play their part in the management scheme; that is, to maintain herd viability through managed harvest.
Many hunters believe that when the agency had a chance to fight for hunters during the bitter battle over hound hunting in the mid 1990s, the agency played politics instead. Hound hunting for black bears and mountain lions was halted, and as a result the cougar population has exploded. Many rank-and-file hunters believe there are now far more big cats decimating elk and deer herds than the agency estimates.
Hunters are divided on the subject of regulations, and understandably so. Those who can afford the time and/or prefer to hunt as if the forest belonged to them like regulations that essentially reduce hunter numbers. Those who want a “quality” experience (apparently as defined by televised hunting programs in which all the bucks and bulls have wallhanger racks) claim to prefer branch antler restrictions.
Here is an ugly truth nobody discusses: Those regulations have resulted in far too many mistaken kills of animals that do not meet the antler requirements and are merely left lying where they drop. That has hurt herd retention and buck-to-doe and bull-to-cow ratios. Of course, hunters should know before pressing the trigger or launching an arrow that the animal they are shooting is legal, so they are responsible.
Seasons that are too early and too short do not provide a harvest that may be necessary to trim herd numbers so that, in the event of a hard winter, we do not experience a lot of winter kill. This is something of a self-fulfilling problem. A low harvest leaves more deer that could die off in a hard winter, prompting biologists to recommend further hunting cutbacks that result in further reduced harvest, and so on. Critics will argue this is simplistic, but some of those critics just might be defending their turf.
If Anderson wants the agency to better sustain itself – and I believe he does – then a major philosophy shift is required, and those who balk should be told to walk. McDonalds may be hiring. This column has discussed these ideas in the past, so this is not a well-kept secret. But it does irritate the architects of the current management scheme, and a lot of people believe that scheme has helped put us in the current fix. Discouraged hunters haven't stopped hunting. They've just gone elsewhere, and taken their cash with them.
Kick these ideas around. But don’t kick them under the rug.
Item #1: Rather than merge agencies, the legislature should transfer all responsibility for non-game species to the Department of Natural Resources, and the staff that goes with it. The Department of Fish and Wildlife should revert to its previous title and concentrate on hunting and fishing, which generates, by Anderson’s own estimates, about $6 billion to the state’s economy.
Get the “Explore Washington” fee hike, and make the “watchable wildlife” program pay for itself, or get rid of it. Hunters and anglers should still get free access to state wildlife lands because they already pay for it with license and tag fees. Anybody else, pay the fee or pay a fine and make it a whopper for trespassing. Money talks.
Item #2: The agency must lobby hard for full restoration of hound hunting for cougars and black bears. This will accomplish reduced predation and reduced human-predator interaction in expanding suburban areas.
Item #3: Abolish “Resource Allocation.” Replace it with the opportunity to hunt more than one season with a different weapon. For example, if someone wants to hunt the regular season with his friends and family, let him do that. If he doesn’t score and wants to try archery or muzzleloading, allow him to purchase a secondary tag for an additional $10 or $15, provided the unused general season tag is surrendered at the transaction, and don’t limit this to so-called “Master Hunters.” This needs to be an opportunity for everybody. The annual bag limit of one deer/one elk remains the same. Result: More opportunity to score, more time enjoyed afield, more reason to buy a license and more income for the agency. Money talks all year long.
Item #4: Shift season dates and lengthen certain seasons. General elk hunting should begin the first full weekend in November and run 15 days to include two full weekends. Eastern Washington mule deer season should run at least 15 days. Northeast Whitetail hunting should run for six weeks with seven full weekends. If the state wants to seriously encourage hunters to purchase licenses and tags, it must provide them serious opportunities to fill those tags. Hunting seasons that merely translate to “camping with guns” drive our hunters – and their money – to other states. Money talks loudest at home.
Item #5: Put an end to blanket antler restrictions. Establish branch antler restrictions in certain units east and west for elk, but allow general season hunters a crack at some of those bigger eastside bulls, or if they run into a spike in Western Washington, take the shot and save a bigger bull for the gene pool. Likewise, end the 3-point mule deer restriction except in certain management units. Want to recruit and retain new hunters? Let them put some meat in the cooler. Even a spike to a 15-year-old kid is a trophy. They’ll buy a license next year. Money keeps talking.
Item #6: Remove the license requirement for shooting coyotes. Hunters should be encouraged to reduce the coyote population “one animal at a time” year around to reduce predation on game species from rabbits and hares on up the chain. It will save some house cats, too.
Item #7: Tighten up the mission of enforcement agents. Game wardens should be game wardens (not "Fish and Wildlife Police"). Going after marijuana grows on agency lands should be left to the local county sheriff, Washington State Patrol and federal drug cops. Of course, in situations where some dipstick fires at you in Grant County on a fishing license check, shoot back.
Item #8: Hand over wolf management to USFWS or DNR. Work with the Attorney General’s office to file a lawsuit against USFWS to halt wolf relocation/introduction plans or proposals. Many hunters are convinced that some in the agency look at them as competition to wolves for the available deer and elk, particularly deer in the Methow Valley.
Item #9: Get the wild turkey program back up to speed and promote the hell out of it. The guy who started that program is now retired. Beg, badger or bribe him to come back and turn him loose. Work with landowners in the Columbia Basin on pheasant rearing and release programs.
Item #10: And perhaps this is most important. Drop this attitude that “These are the good old days.” That’s a defeatist philosophy. Compare Washington with Ohio, where hunters take more than 100,000 deer during their seven-day general season, and in Washington we take between 40,000 and 45,000 in all of their seasons combined. Ohio is about 20,000 square miles smaller than Washington, it has a fraction of our public land, it has one species of deer (we have three huntable species). Ohio has more than 11 million residents, and Washington has about 6.5 million. Let’s swap Ohio two non-game biologists for one of their game biologists.
[UPDATE: This is going to make Washington hunters' blood pressure really go up: The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is reporting today that Buckeye State black powder hunters took 17,108 deer during the recent four-day muzzleloader hunt, bringing the total deer harvest for all seasons (shotgun, muzzleloader and archery) to - are you sitting down? - 227,469 animals. The archery season continues to Feb. 6.]

Of course, none of this will happen and I will be called a crank for even suggesting it.

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Last edited by summit daWg; 01-14-2011 at 12:22 PM.
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Old 01-14-2011, 05:57 PM
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Old 01-17-2011, 04:56 PM
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