Field reports: WDFW chief retiring at end of the year

SUNDAY, AUG. 17, 2014

AGENCIES – After 20 years with the agency and nearly six years at the helm of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife,  Phil Anderson, 64, says he will retire as director on Dec. 31.

The former fishing charterboat skipper from Westport, Washington, guided the department’s 1,400 employees through issues such as the return of gray wolves and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

During the unprecedented budget shortfall starting in 2010, state General Fund support for the department declined by nearly $50 million – 45 percent – threatening department operations, fish hatcheries and fishing and hunting opportunities.

The department enacted a Gray Wolf Management Plan in 2011, after working with citizen advisors. The plan establishes recovery objectives for wolves that are naturally recolonizing in Washington.

The agency has had to reform state fish hatchery operations this year to avoid a shutdown of salmon and steelhead production threatened by lawsuits filed by a conservation group that contends hatchery fish threatened wild stocks.

As Anderson winds down his career, the department is accelerating its effort to control a hoof disease that’s crippling elk in southwest Washington.

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission plans to begin recruiting a new director in the next few weeks.

Ranger hikes start on Elwha River

PARKS – Olympic National Park rangers will begin leading free interpretive walks along the Elwha River on Tuesdays and Sundays through Sept. 2.

Rangers will guide visitors starting at 1 p.m. through the changing landscape being created by the river following the removal of the Elwha Dam. The walks begin at the end of Lake Aldwell Road, which turns north off Highway 101 just west of the Elwha River bridge. Info: tinyurl.com/Elwha-Restoration.

Wolf derby group seeks 5-year permit

HUNTING – Organizers of a disputed predator derby aimed at killing wolves in central Idaho have asked the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for a five-year contest permit.

Idaho for Wildlife went ahead with the derby last year after a U.S. District Court ruled against an environmental group’s lawsuit to stop it.

About 230 participants killed 21 coyotes but no wolves in the Salmon-based derby. They said the event is meant to publicize wolves’ impact on elk herds.

Glacier Park sets July visitor record

PARKS — July 2014 was the busiest July on record at Glacier National Park.

The park service’s statistics office says nearly 700,000 people visited the northwestern Montana park last month.

The previous record for July was just shy of 690,000, in 1983.

The statistics office keeps monthly visitation records going back to 1979.

The park’s year-to-date visitor count is 1.2 million, which is nearly 5 percent higher than this time a year ago.

However, the number of people staying overnight declined 5.3 percent, and overnight stays in the backcountry dropped 15 percent.

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