The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department wants to meet with representatives of the state’s 30 Indian tribes, including the Nez Perce Tribe, this month to discuss hunting issues.
The Thursday meeting in Seattle will be open only to agency and tribal representatives.
From the state’s perspective, the first priority is conservation and the second is managing wildlife species, said Phil Anderson, the agency’s tribal policy coordinator at Olympia.
“Without good cooperation with tribal and state managers, both goals could be at risk so the intent of this discussion is to get everybody in the same room at the same time and have a candid discussion about where we’re going,” Anderson said.
Carla HighEagle, a Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee member at Lapwai, said state officials also invited the tribe to meet with its regional officials about elk hunting in the Blue Mountains.
Some tribes rely on state policies to secure their hunting rights, unlike the federal treaties the Nez Perces and others signed, she said.
Nez Perce leaders reacted angrily last month to an elk management plan for the Blue Mountains drafted by Fish and Wildlife officials, saying they had been blindsided by the draft plan and the state had not sought information from the tribe. Nez Perce officials also disputed the plan’s conclusions about tribal hunting.
The draft plan suggested hunting by Nez Perces is a major factor in problems facing Washington’s Asotin Creek elk herd. Throughout the Blues, unregulated tribal hunting ranked as a smaller factor.
Washington Fish and Wildlife Director Bern Shanks apologized in a letter last month after tribal complaints. “It is extremely unfortunate and regrettable that the draft management plan was developed without the benefit of the tribal perspective. It is equally unfortunate that tribal hunting was reported as a major factor in the decline of the elk herds in the Blue Mountain area,” Shanks wrote.
The episode showed the need for state and tribal managers to work together on issues and pointed to the need for the Seattle meeting, Shanks said.
“We hope that you will come to the table and discuss implementing the management measures that will increase the elk population in southeast Washington,” Shanks wrote.
The draft plan said sport harvest of elk in the Blues had dropped 85 percent, to 315 animals in 1996 from 2,161 in 1981. State officials estimated the tribal harvest at 150 to 250 elk a year based on observations by Fish and Wildlife officers.
Solid figures are not available from the state or the tribe.
Park fishery closed
Olympic National Park has closed its waters to wild steelhead trout fishing.
The closure is in response to low returns of steelhead to rivers and streams throughout the state, park officials said. Similar restrictions have been imposed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in state waters.
Hatchery steelhead, which are identified by a missing adipose fin, may still be harvested within park waters.
Hunting input sought
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials will hold 15 meetings across the state to seek public input on proposals for simplified 1998 hunting seasons.
The proposals mostly involve deer and elk hunting. The most significant change under consideration would establish statewide general seasons, with special permit seasons by counties or portions of counties, rather than by game management units.
The department’s goal is to simplify regulations, but that likely will mean fewer special hunts and opportunities some hunters have enjoyed.
Copies of the proposals may be obtained from Mike Judge, WDFW Public Involvement Coordinator, 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091, telephone (360) 902-2407. Written comments may be mailed to Judge before Feb. 6.
Public meetings include:
Spokane: Monday, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council meeting room, 6116 N. Market, 7 p.m.
Addy: Tuesday, Northwest Alloys Training Center, across from Northwest Alloys plant on Zimmer Rd., 7 p.m.
Dayton: Jan. 21, Columbia County Fairgrounds, 7 p.m.
Kennewick: Jan. 27, Benton PUD auditorium, 7 p.m.
Okanogan: Jan, 28, Okanogan County PUD auditorium, 7 p.m.
Fees increase looms
Deer and elk hunters are likely to pay $6 more per tag, under a proposed fee schedule the Idaho Fish and Game Department will put before the Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Thursday in Boise.
The proposed increases are designed to put the source of funding directly on the programs that would benefit from the additional funding.
The price of deer tags for resident hunters would increase from $10.50 to $16.50. Elk tags would go from $16.50 to $22.50. Non-residents would pay $232.50 and $332.50 respectively.
The department’s two-phase plan for the additional funds would address critical short-term conservation needs and long-term conservation requirements and budget needs.
Fish and Game expects to raise approximately $1.4 million if the increases are approved. The money would be spent to conduct aerial surveys on deer and elk herds, development of a mandatory reportcard system for deer and elk hunters, improvement of telephone surveys and other near-term projects.
Any increases would take effect May 1.
Fishing issues reviewed
A variety of major sport and commercial fishing issues will highlight the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Jan. 23-24 at LaConner, Wash.
Citizens also can discuss state-tribal cooperative hunting management during the two-day session that begins Jan. 23 in the Maple Hall auditorium at 2 p.m.
Commissioners are scheduled to adopt 1998-99 sportfishing rules at the initial meeting. They will vote on a number of key fish-conservation and season-setting policies at an 8 a.m. session on Jan. 24.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: STATUS DISCUSSED Seven meetings have been scheduled in Washington this month to discuss a proposal to add sharp-tailed grouse to the state’s list of threatened species. Meetings in Eastern Washington include: Today, at the Lincoln County Courthouse, county commissioners room in Davenport, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Thursday, at the PUD auditorium in Okanogan, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Jan. 22, City Hall in Moxee, 7 p.m.-9 p.m.
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