HUNTING – Just as Washington was flush with water this spring, hunters can expect a bounty of local ducks when seasons open this fall.
Overall water availability in Washington was the among wettest seen in 20 years according to reports compiled from state wildlife areas managed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Abundant water provided breeding habitat particularly through the Potholes and Channeled Scablands region, where potholes and ponds were plentiful.
Reservoirs throughout eastern Washington were at or above 100 percent capacity with associated flooding of fields and pastures, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 2017 waterfowl surveys report. In early May, significant snowmelt runoff was still occurring throughout the Okanogan and Northeast Highlands.
The estimate for total ducks in Washington, 242,200, was 99 percent above the 2016 estimate and 44 percent above the long-term average of 167,400. The mallard estimate in Washington was 103,400 – 72 percent higher than last year and 29 percent above the long-term average.
Under generally good conditions for waterfowl, federal wildlife officials reported 47.3 million ducks this spring in North America, the fifth-highest total on record.
The overall duck estimate is 2 percent below 2016 but 34 percent above the long-term average, according to the 2017 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey.
Duck and goose numbers have been consistently high in the past decade, including a record 49.5 million ducks in 2015.
Although survey data and hunting experiences don’t always agree, many U.S. waterfowl hunters claim the modern conditions are “the good old days” with high bag limits and long seasons.
Federal, provincial and state agencies conduct aerial surveys each spring to estimate the size of breeding waterfowl populations and to evaluate conditions in principal breeding habitats.
The continental survey has been conducted annually since 1955 and provides the single best picture of waterfowl populations.
The 2017 total pond estimate (Prairie Canada and U.S. combined) was 6.1 million, 22 percent above last year and 17 percent higher than the long-term average.
North Dakota was a notable exception to the generally good reports from across North America. Surveys in the Roughrider State, which is suffering from drought, showed an 8 percent drop in duck production, according to a mid-July waterfowl assessment.
Mallards were once again the most abundant species in North America, followed by blue-winged teal.
Mining exploration OKed near Mount St. Helens
PUBLIC LANDS – The U.S. Forest Service has issued a draft decision consenting to exploratory drilling in the Green River valley, just outside the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. A 45-day objection periods started on Tuesday.
Permits would allow a Canadian mining company, Ascot Resources Ltd., to drill 63 drill holes from 23 drill pads to locate deposits of copper, gold, and molybdenum on roughly 900 acres of public lands.
A coalition of conservation and recreation groups opposes the project, claiming mining exploration and development will disrupt recreation, pollute waters and impact steelhead habitat.
The city of Kelso recently passed a resolution opposing the mine because of impacts from leaking mine effluent and failed toxic tailings ponds that would result from locating a mine in an active volcanic zone.
Disabled hunter permits no longer at BLM
HUNTING – Disabled hunter access packets and permits for the Colville National Forest are no longer available in Spokane at the U.S. Bureau of Land management office.
To obtain the materials for permits to access designated gated roads, disabled hunters can call the forest headquarters in Colville at (509) 684-7000 or contact one of the national forest offices in Colville, Newport, Republic, Kettle Falls or Sullivan Lake.
The Forest Service eliminated its customer service staffing in Spokane this spring.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.