PUBLIC LANDS – Nearly a third of Washington’s year-round state parks staffers are being notified this week they likely will be laid off as a result of lagging sales of the new Discover Pass.
Riverside and Mount Spokane State Parks are likely to be combined and six of the 15 full-time positions will be cut.
Seasonal jobs will replace some of the 160 positions targeted in Tuesday’s action by the State Parks and Recreation Commission.
The Legislature has cut off parks from state tax funding, banking on the belief that citizens love parks so much they’ll buy the Discover Pass to support the system.
The parks commission Tuesday agreed to bridge the gap by dipping into reserves and making $11 million in cuts.
“We’re not giving up on the Discover Pass, saying it’s a failure or anything,” said the acting deputy director of parks, Ilene Frisch.
Legislation was introduced last week to allow the passes to transfer between two cars – dealing with one of the main public complaints about the Discover Pass vehicle access permit that debuted this year.
“Let’s hope the changes we’re making will increase the revenue stream,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island. “If it doesn’t, then we need to come back together and we need to have a very serious discussion” about revenue.
Wolf harvest grows in Idaho, Montana
PREDATORS – The toll on gray wolves is growing as hunting seasons continue in Montana and Idaho.
Montana is closing the wolf season in portions of western Montana where hunters have met the state’s annual quota of 12 wolves in Unit 130, which includes portions of Flathead, Lake and Missoula counties.
So far this season, Montana hunters have killed about 105 wolves since hunting began in September. With less than a month to reach the statewide quota of 220 wolves, wildlife officials are considering extending the season through January in some areas.
Idaho hunters – and more recently, trappers – have killed more than 150 wolves in a season that will go through March. Although there are quotas for wolves in some zones, Idaho has set no statewide maximum for the seven-month season.
Idaho’s management plan calls for managing wolves so their population remains above 15 breeding pairs and 150 total, the point where Idaho could attract federal scrutiny for a possible re-listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Plan may lure terns from eating salmon
FISHERIES – The Corps of Engineers is scheduled to start construction this month on a $4 million island in a lake near Burns, Ore., to attract Caspian terns to southeast Oregon.
Wildlife officials want the birds to nest in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to reduce the population on East Sand Island near Ilwaco, Wash., where they have been eating too many young salmon in the Columbia River.
The plan banks on Caspian terns switching to eat immature carp clogging Malheur Lake and crowding out waterfowl.