Landers: Deer recommendation based on misinformation

On April 8, Washington sportsmen will finally learn if Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Gary Douvia of Kettle Falls has compromising photos of other commission members.

The proof will be in the commission’s vote on a Stevens County proposal to establish a minimum four-point antler restriction for whitetail bucks in Game Management Units 117 and 121 – the state’s two most popular whitetail deer hunting units.

The record provides a clear answer on how the vote should go.

But vice-chair Douvia seems to have a spell over the current seven-member panel.

Considering the statewide realm of fish and wildlife issues, Douvia has helped orchestrate a disproportional amount of commission and agency time to Stevens County rants on everything from wolves to wilderness.

Much of it has been of pitiful quality.

For example, at the commission’s meeting in Spokane this month, the only county commissioner from the region to bend the panel’s ear was Don Dashiell of – surprise – Stevens County.

After summarizing his desires for fish and wildlife management, Dashiell was asked by Douvia to comment on northeastern Washington wilderness proposals.

What that has to do with the Fish and Wildlife Commission went over the head of just about everyone there, but on they went for 15 minutes of uncontested misinformation. They trashed conservationists, trounced wilderness as an elitist job-killing concept and pooh-poohed their neighbors on the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition.

“I think if we go to a wilderness area, 90 percent of the people who use those forests now would not be able to use them,” Douvia said.

“If we did a wilderness in the Sherman Range, the only way you could hunt and recreate there would be to have your own horses or have guides to take you in to get your animals out. If they close those roads, you can’t get back into that Sherman Range. There’s no way you can do it.”

Coincidentally, Derrick Knowles, was there to point out that no roads would be closed in the areas proposed for wilderness by the Forestry Coalition.

Minor detail.

This isn’t meant to be an argument for or against wilderness. It’s a question about what testimony should sway the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Knowles is a Spokane hunter who shot a six-point bull elk in a walk-in area in northeast Washington two years ago and packed it out 3 miles on his mountain bike. He’s also a board member of the Forest Coalition that’s been negotiating the proposals.

After requesting time to comment to the panel, he shot the Stevens County rant so full of holes it looked like one of the county’s road signs.

He pointed out that the coalition’s board is comprised of some of Steven’s County’s major employers as well as conservation groups, a partnership that would not have endured since 2003 if it meant the loss of jobs.

Similar inbred and misinformed logic is driving the Stevens County Fish and Wildlife Advisory Committee’s antler restriction proposal.

The Washington Association of Fish and Wildlife Professionals has submitted a clear rebuttal to the proposal. The two-page letter cites points that have been documented in detail by state biologists and supported by the majority of sportsmen commenting on the proposal in meetings and surveys:

  • Biological considerations do not support an antler-point restriction.

  • Surveyed hunters prefer no antler restrictions.

  • The restrictions would reduce hunter opportunity.

  • Economic impacts are possible as general hunters head elsewhere.

Enforcement agents are concerned about the number of three-point whitetails that might end up dead in the brush after a season with four-point antler restrictions. Sure there’s a restriction in Whitman County, but counting antler points is a lot easier in wheat fields than in Stevens County thickets.

Wildlife managers agree northeast deer numbers are down, but studies have shown better methods for improving the populations. Little research indicates that a four-point restriction would result in more does bred.

Northeastern Washington offers escape cover for a good percentage of bucks to avoid hunters and grow to larger sizes without antler restrictions.

Here’s what’s funny: After a Fish and Wildlife official made a presentation on hunting-season proposals at the Spokane meeting, it was Douvia who took the floor to remind him that the public doesn’t want unnecessary regulations.

To that, most sportsmen can heartily agree, and so should the commission.

Unfortunately, George Orr, former Fish and Wildlife commissioner from Spokane, won’t be at the April 8 meeting to reiterate the crux of the issue:

“Without a good reason,” he said, “I’d rather not add the possibility of putting a kid in a situation where he knocks down a buck that’s one-point shy of legal.”

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