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Wednesday, October 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Partnering to provide access and opportunity for all sportsmen

From wire reports

Being in a wheelchair or using another assistive device can definitely be a deterrent, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of your hunting days.

The Inland Northwest Wildlife Council has partnered with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Colville National Forest, as well as Hancock Forest Management, to ensure that everyone who wants to hunt has access to hunt.

The INWC is a group of sportsmen and women dedicated to conservation and habitat improvement in the Inland Northwest. It has been partnering with WDFW since the founding of the organization in 1951.

Members coordinate with WDFW on projects ranging from teaching kids to fish, building wildlife viewing blinds, installing and fixing fences on WDFW lands, planting native species to restore traditional habitat, lake clean-ups, roadkill recovery and butchering to donate meat to homeless shelters and food banks. They also lobby and do legislation work to promote decisions that will preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting and other recreation opportunities.

With fall and hunting seasons here, INWC is working to get more people into the woods and into the harvest of deer, elk or other game animals.

About a decade ago, INWC members had a vision of providing better hunting opportunities for disabled hunters, specifically those in wheelchairs. Volunteers got together and built a handful of wheelchair hunting platforms with ramps and installed them in the Colville National Forest and on Inland Empire Paper Company land in Northeast Washington. Over the years, volunteers checked and maintained them each year.

In 2018, INWC members decided more platforms were needed and coordinated with WDFW staff to put another at the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area, in the Rustler’s Gulch Unit. Roles were reversed not too long later when WDFW staff decided another platform would be optimal and reached out to INWC to build and install one at the Sherman Creek Unit near Kettle Falls.

In 2019, an INWC member learned that a Central Valley High School student in Spokane Valley was looking for an Eagle Scout project and reached out to see if he would be interested in building another hunting platform. Members helped him and other scouts install it at Squirrel Meadows in the Colville National Forest not long after.

Two original ramps have since been refurbished and deployed to new locations at HFM property at Blanchard Hump and the upper side of the Rustler’s Gulch Unit of the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area, where they will soon be available to be more accessible to people in wheelchairs.

The INWC folks aren’t done yet.

They are building two additional accessible hunter platforms, funded through a grant from WDFW, to be placed soon on Aladdin Mountain, west of Ione, within the Colville National Forest’s Disabled Hunter ADA Program area. When complete, that will make a total of 10 ADA accessible hunting platforms installed by INWC members around Northeast Washington, all inside gated areas reserved for disabled hunters so they don’t have to compete with able-bodied hunters.

WDFW is appreciative of the efforts of Inland Northwest Wildlife Council members to ensure that disabled hunters still have a chance to take something home to their freezer.

If you are disabled, are a companion to a disabled hunter or know one, more information on how hunting programs for those with disabilities, as well as how to access one of these ADA accessible hunting platforms, is on the WDFW’s Diversity, Civil Rights, and ADA Accessibility page (wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility).

The INWC also has an ADA program that works with private landowners and government organizations to provide land access for hundreds of hunters with disabilities and an annual open house that showcases adaptive hunting and fishing equipment available to those with disabilities.

You can visit their ADA page on their website at www.inwc.org/disabled-access-committee.

The INWC can also be reached by calling their office at (509) 487-8552, or by email: thewildlifecouncil@gmail.com.

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