Outdoorsmen expected to take state wildlife officials to task
Some may call for Fish and Wildlife Commission resignations
Last updated 8/3/2022 at 3:31pm
OLYMPIA – Several outdoorsmen and Eastern Washington county commissioners are expected to take the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to task during its three-day meeting this week.
Northeast Washington Wildlife Group spokesman Dale Magart said Tuesday afternoon that the meeting “might be interesting.”
Several outdoorsmen and Eastern Washington commissioners active in the Eastern Washington Council of Governments are expected to speak during the public input portion of the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s meeting at about 8:45 Friday morning.
The entire meeting is slated for Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 4-6.
According to Magart, hunters and local officials are concerned failed wildlife management practices are destroying the elk and deer populations in Eastern Washington.
“A number of county commissioners from Eastern Washington will be addressing the Fish and Wildlife Commission,” he said.
Whitman County Commissioner Art Swannack is among those expected to speak.
“My intent is to ask them to follow the science and their biologists' recommendations with regards to predator management,” Swannack said. “Their biologists and staff have recommended a spring bear hunt to control elk and deer predation by bears. There has also been recommendations to increase control of cougars due to a growing population and its impact on ungulates and the increasing risk to people where cougars are coming into towns.”
Magart said those concerns are only part of the problem, with outdoorsmen expected to call for the resignations of commission members Tim Ragen, John Lehmkuhl, Melanie Rowland and Lorna Smith.
Magart said those members, in particular, are failing to follow state law on their duties to manage wildlife and fish for all uses — including hunting. Instead, they are pushing liberal agenda, routinely opposing hunting activities and predator control.
Magart spoke about the issue during the May and July meetings of the Eastern Washington Council of Governments, which includes Adams, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Whitman and other counties, but not Spokane.
Outdoorsmen want those four commissioners gone, Magart said, adding, “They are anti-hunting.”
Rowland is an environmental activist and attorney from Twisp who works with the Methow Valley Citizen Council, which has sued to prevent development in Okanogan County and opposed lethal solutions to wolf depredations on livestock and pets.
Smith, of Jefferson County, is the retired director of Western Wildlife Outreach, another environmental activist group that promotes protections of large carnivores, including bears and cougars, over other considerations.
Ragen is the former director of the liberal U.S. Marine Mammal Commission and Lehmkuhl has been an opponent of having a spring bear hunt season.
Magart said those commissioners have strongly supported large predator protections, while neglecting the ungulate populations and their decline in Eastern Washington.
“We’re having a real problem with elk calves in Southeast Washington,” Magart said. “We’re also having a real problem with our white tails.”
For his part, Swannack said he’s concerned that the state Fish and Wildlife Commission is neglecting the need for hunting seasons, as well as the need for predator controls.
“The commission has chosen to not accept these recommendations without real justification other than several members stated they don't like hunting,” Swannack said. “I've already written four pages to them about wolf management.
Swannack said state law requires the commission to balance hunting, fishing, recreation and environmental interests.
“The latest appointments by Gov. Inslee doesn't look to have followed that requirement to keep interests balanced,” he said.
Adams County Commissioner Dan Blankenship said he’s new to the depredation issues, but that he’s noticed the changes in his agricultural county.
“It seems to me that the governor has appointed people that don’t match the RCWs,” he said, noting that he’s not yet ready to take a position on individual Fish and Wildlife Commission members.
Blankenship said there are increases in sightings of large predators in his county and only wants to make sure the commission is balancing all interests — including hunting — as required by law.
In other business, the commission is expected to discuss shoreline armoring, grazing permits, steal head and land acquisitions.
The land acquisitions include the purchase of 60 acres in Grant County to be added to the Quincy Lakes Wildlife Area, 221 acres in the Methow Valley for squirrel, fisher and gray wolf habitat and nearly 1,200 acres in Yakima County for bird habitat.
The acquisitions are expected to include provisions for hunting and fishing on those lands, among other outdoor recreational activities.