WDFW Commission Hears Hunt Proposals; Amends Puget Sound Clam, Oyster Seasons

The commission also approved modifications to 2011 Puget Sound recreational clam and oyster seasons, based on annual species surveys and expected sport fishing effort. The changes will result in longer seasons on eight public beaches, shorter seasons on four beaches, and a shift in season timing on one beach. Details of the season modifications are available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2011/03/mar0511_04_clams_oysters.pdf .

In other business, the commission approved the following land transactions:

  • Purchase of nearly 78 acres of wetlands and flood plain in Grays Harbor County, adjacent to WDFW’s Chehalis Wildlife Area, for $175,000 from a USFWS grant and a pipeline mitigation project.
  • Acquisition of shrub-steppe habitat for sage grouse and recreational access in Moses Coulee near Jameson Lake (Douglas County), as a unit of WDFW’s Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area. That 473-acres acquisition will be funded with $120,000 from a Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) grant.
  • A conservation easement on 320 acres of land in the Methow Valley, for large mammal migration corridors, mule deer winter range and shrub-steppe habitat. The land will be managed as part of the Frazer Unit of the Methow Wildlife Area. The easement will be purchased for $1,020,000 from U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and WWRP grants. Those funds are part of WDFW’s capital budget and are not available for use in operating budgets.

The commission also was briefed on proposed changes in state bald eagle management plan requirements.  Bald eagles are no longer listed as an endangered species and are considered recovered in Washington state. The proposal would reduce current management plan requirements to require site-specific management plans only if bald eagles were again listed as a state threatened or endangered species. Bald eagle habitat protection would continue through the USFWS under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The proposal will be considered for adoption at the commission’s April 8-9 meeting in Olympia.

WDFW Recognizes Volunteers for Fish and Wildlife Stewardship

Recipients of the 2009 Volunteer of the Year award include:

  • Jerry Ponti, who operates a veterinary clinic east of Spokane, has treated hundreds of wild animals along with pets and livestock over the past 30 years.  Wildlife biologists have long relied on Ponti to care for sick and injured deer, raccoons, eagles, bobcats and other wildlife.
  • Mike Braaton, of Castle Rock, who has spent hundreds of hours over the past decade planting elk forage, pulling scotch broom and conducting wildlife surveys on WDFW projects at the Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area.  A professional mechanic, he has helped to keep project equipment running and has personally secured several grants for work at the wildlife area.
  • Bill Butler, of Cheney, who first volunteered with WDFW in 1964 and spent more than two decades helping staff at the Spokane Hatchery spawn rainbow trout.  A longtime member of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council and the Bighorn Foundation, he also has coordinated efforts to restore upland game habitat and promote outdoor education.
  • Robert Heirman, of Snohomish, who has volunteered his time, money and expertise to projects benefitting fish and wildlife recreation for more than 50 years.  His contributions include planting fish in lakes and streams, building fishing docks, conducting salmon derbies and preserving what are now the Bob Heirman Wildlife Park and Lord's Hill Park in Snohomish County for outdoor recreation.
  • Charles ("Stan") Staniforth, of Bellevue, who has tallied thousands of hours leading tours and teaching schoolchildren about salmon at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery.  He also helps hatchery staff clean incubation trays, tally fish and maintain the facility.

Interim WDFW Director Anderson presented those awards during individual ceremonies conducted in July at regional offices throughout the state.  In addition, Anderson presented awards in three other categories.

Organization of the Year
The Okanogan Valley Land Council (OVLC) received this year's Organization of the Year award during a July 22 ceremony in Ephrata.  Since the OVLC was established in 2002, it has worked with six landowners to protect nearly 2,000 acres of native shrub-steppe and riparian habitat from development by securing easements on the properties.  Using agricultural easements, the land trust also provided similar protection for a 1,025-acre cattle ranch and 600 acres in the Okanogan Highlands.

Educator of the Year
This year's Educator of the Year Award was presented to Scott Olson, a principal and instructor at the Tonasket Alternative School, and George Thornton, a teacher with the Oroville School District.  Working together, the two educators engaged their students in a photo-monitoring project, designed to assess environmental changes in the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area.  Students developed an understanding of local history, area botany, photography, global positioning system (GPS) skills and other disciplines.

Landowner of the Year
This year's recipients of the Landowner of the Year award were:

  • Jack Burkhalter, a lifelong resident of Pacific County, who has worked with state fishery managers for 30 years to establish and maintain viable populations of salmon in the various streams flowing through his property. 
  • Richard and Kathy Rice and family, who own a 10,000 acre farm in Douglas County.  The Rice family has worked for the past decade to preserve and improve hundreds of acres of habitat for wildlife, notably Columbian sharp-tailed grouse.
  • Karen and Tony Spane, who own a 300-acre dairy farm in the Marshland Diking District near Everett.  The Spanes were early supporters of a proposal by the City of Everett to restore a portion of the diking district as chinook salmon habitat, helping others to see the benefits of the project for both salmon and outdoor recreation.