Field reports: Columbia refuge mulls camping, hunting changes
OUTPLAN – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing a new management plan for the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, which could mean changes for campers, hunters and anglers.
The first comment period has closed on a proposed 15-year management plan for the 29,596-acre refuge south of the Potholes Reservoir in Grant and Adams County. The refuge includes wetlands that attract birds, including Sandhill cranes.
Alternatives include ending overnight camping at the refuge and focusing on restoring native plant species.
Hunting opportunities could be expanded, although one alternative would eliminate the lottery that preassigns waterfowl hunting blinds. Permanent blinds would be removed, but hunters could still use portable blinds.
In 1997, Congress approved legislation requiring national wildlife refuges to focus on opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, environmental education and interpretation, Columbia National Refuge manager Kelly Chase said.
Proposals would curtail or eliminate horseback riding and bicycling, which spread seeds for invasive species.
Fish stocking could be discontinued at some or all of the refuge lakes as part of the trend away from nonnative species.
Info: (509) 546-8333.
Wolf plan heads commission agenda
ENDANGERED – Washington’s pending Wolf Conservation and Management Plan will be the focus of another special state Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Thursday in Olympia.
The discussion will center on focus on the interaction of wolves with livestock and ungulates. Public comment will be accepted.
The special session will be followed by a meeting Friday and Saturday, when the commission will receive briefings on issues including the status of north coast steelhead stocks and population goals for deer, elk and other ungulates.
The special meeting is the second of three scheduled on the recommended Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. The first was held in Ellensburg.
The third special meeting is set for Nov. 3 in Olympia.
The commission is expected to take action on the plan in December.
Fewer razor clams available for fall digs
SHELLFISHING – Fewer razor clams will be available for harvest this season on the Washington Coast beaches, according to Washington Fish and Wildlife Department preseason surveys.
State coastal shellfish manager Dan Ayres said the decline is because of the natural cycle of razor clam populations.
“We’ll have a little less digging this season,” Ayres said. “But we’ll probably save as much as we can for spring dates. People like that, the conditions are better and the clams are bigger.”
Buy Discover Pass with license tabs
STATE LANDS – Drivers have a new option for buying the $30 annual Discover Pass required for access to all state parks and most state lands. The Department of Licensing is authorized to accept payment of the Discover Pass when renewing vehicle license tabs.
The pass is available for purchase by those with a vehicle registration expiration date on or after Oct. 1, 2011.
The Discover Pass was created by the 2011 Legislature. Since spring, the pass has been required, with some exceptions, for vehicles entering state parks or recreation lands.
Vehicle owners may purchase the pass at DOL vehicle licensing offices or when renewing tabs online.
Info: (866) 320-9933, discoverpass.wa.gov.