Commission approves timber salvage sale, hears reports on variety of fish, wildlife issues

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OCEAN SHORES – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission authorized salvaging and thinning timber on two state wildlife areas near Grays Harbor and received briefings on issues ranging from crab fishing to elk management during a public meeting here June 6-7.

The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the department’s proposal to salvage and thin timber on the Olympic and Johns River wildlife areas. Both areas are owned and managed by WDFW to provide habitat for Roosevelt elk.

Wracked by a severe windstorm in December 2007, portions of those wildlife areas are now strewn with fallen trees, blocking passage for elk and other wildlife. In other areas, a thick canopy of tree limbs is impeding growth of plants and shrubs that elk rely on for food.

Jerry Gutzwiler, commission chair, recommended that the department act quickly to salvage the fallen trees and thin the forest on about 300 acres within the two wildlife areas.

“You only have so much time to retrieve those trees before they start to rot,” said Gutzwiler, who worked as a forester for 25 years. “Clearing the excess timber will only improve elk habitat in these areas.”

Proceeds from the timber will be used to support management of the Grays Harbor wildlife areas, and others around the state.

After approving the salvage and thinning operation, the commission received briefings from WDFW staff on a variety of issues, including:

  • Game management: WDFW is currently updating the new statewide game management plan for 2009-15, which is scheduled for a public hearing at the commission’s Aug. 8-9 meeting in Lynwood. In preparation for that meeting, department staff presented an overview of key initiatives undertaken over the past six years, including measures to increase hunter access to private timberlands and improve cougar and black bear management.
  • Mount St. Helens elk herd: Last fall, the Weyerhaeuser Company significantly expanded hunter access to its lands in the St. Helens Tree Farm under a cooperative agreement with WDFW, which added 1,400 new special elk hunt permits in the area to help bring the herd into line with the available habitat. The commission was briefed on the expanded hunt by representatives of the department, Weyerhaeuser and the South West Land Access Coalition, which coordinated more than 50 volunteers involved in staffing gates, posting signs and providing information to hunters. All agreed the hunt was a success and that they plan to participate in an expanded hunt again this year.
  • Tribal hunting: WDFW staff briefed the commission on discussions with treaty tribes about 2008 hunting seasons in various areas of western Washington. WDFW is currently working with the Point Elliott treaty tribes to develop a regional hunting agreement designed to improve big game management through the sharing of regulations and harvest information for game management units in eastern Puget Sound and a portion of the Kitsap Peninsula.
  • Trapping permits: WDFW issued 882 trapping permits in 2007 – up from 776 the year before – under circumstances prescribed in state law. Approximately 62 percent of those permits were for beaver, which account for an increasing amount of flooding and property damage around the state, according to the department.
  • Puget Sound crab fishery: Thirty-two percent of all sport crabbers licensed to fish in Puget Sound returned their summer catch-record cards last season. Only 10.5 percent returned their winter catch cards. WDFW plans to seek commission approval for a $10 penalty – starting in 2009 – for Puget Sound crabbers who do not return completed catch cards, as required under state fishing rules.

For information about future commission meetings, contact the commission office at (360) 902-2267 or see the WDFW website at