Field reports: DNR reopens Eastern Washington recreation lands

Noble Horvath

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources reopened all recreation lands east of the Cascades to recreation on Friday. East Side recreation was initially closed on Sept. 8 due to critical wildfire danger. While fire danger overall has decreased slightly, it is extremely important to stay diligent when it comes […]

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources reopened all recreation lands east of the Cascades to recreation on Friday.

East Side recreation was initially closed on Sept. 8 due to critical wildfire danger.

While fire danger overall has decreased slightly, it is extremely important to stay diligent when it comes to fire safety.

“We are optimistic the weather will continue to cooperate, allowing us to reopen East Side recreation areas closed due to extreme wildfire danger and the risk to the public as they enter those lands through wildfire-impacted roads and towns,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, the elected official who oversees DNR. “I urge everyone to continue to follow all safety regulations, the statewide burn ban and target shooting ban, keeping in mind it only takes one spark to start a devastating wildfire.”

As firefighting resources continue to be stretched thin, DNR is focused on the prevention of new fire starts. A burn ban and shooting ban remain in place on all DNR-managed lands.

Other precautions to reduce human-caused fires include extinguishing campfires completely so they are cold to the touch, avoiding parking on dry grass, always checking chains when towing, and never using incendiary devices of any kind while recreating on forestlands.

“We still have a burn ban and target shooting ban to help mitigate fire starts,” said Leah Dobey, DNR’s Statewide Recreation Manager. “It is critically important all our visitors follow those guidelines so we can continue to keep our landscapes, our communities and our forests safe.”

The forecast shows a decreased risk of large fires and more moisture on the way statewide.

The majority of wildfires DNR responds to are presumed to be human-caused. This year the agency has seen 110 fires started from recreation activities.

Hunters with concerns about their tags should contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Grouse wings wanted by WDFW

Forest grouse hunters can help wildlife biologists get a handle on species that are remote and difficult to study by depositing wings and tails of their birds in collection barrels stationed around Eastern Washington.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife collects wings and tails of hunter-harvested forest grouse (spruce, ruffed, dusky and sooty species) during the Sept. 1-Dec. 31 hunting season.

A wing and tail from each grouse can tell biologists the species, sex and age of the bird to help with grouse monitoring and management.

Search “forest grouse” on the WDFW website (wdfw.wa.gov).

WDFW hatcheries remain closed

With salmon spawning season in full swing at many state hatcheries, WDFW reminds the public that hatchery facilities remain closed statewide due to the continued spread of COVID-19.

Many people visit hatcheries in late summer and early fall to observe spawning activity, or to take advantage of available parking to fish nearby for returning salmon.

WDFW hatcheries remain closed at this time to ensure the health and safety of hatchery employees, and visitors may find some areas or facilities that are typically open may not be accessible as they have been in past years.

“Our hatcheries are home to some of the department’s most important work, and hatchery staff provide a vital service to the entire state,” said Eric Kinne, WDFW’s hatchery division manager. “We’re hoping to reopen these facilities as soon as it’s safe to do so, but for now we’re asking the public to please respect any posted closures and be prepared to go elsewhere if an area remains closed.”

Washington bans hunting contests

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission last week approved changes to rules governing hunting contests in the state and adopted revised language for its Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy.

The commission voted 7-2 to adopt two proposed rule changes governing hunting contests. The first rule change excludes species that don’t have bag limits – such as coyotes – from being eligible for hunting contests. The second makes it illegal to participate in a hunting contest not permitted by WDFW.

The commission in a 5-4 vote adopted amendments to its Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy (C-3620), which guides salmon fishery management in the Columbia and Snake rivers. The policy, which primarily addresses the sharing of fish and kinds of nontribal fishing that can occur, was first adopted in 2013, and an extensive review of the policy began in 2018.

The policy provides allocation guidance for impacts to threatened or endangered fish populations after all conservation objectives are met, including objectives under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Panhandle seeks project proposals

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests Resource Advisory Committee is seeking applications for project proposals that benefit public lands, to be implemented with federal Secure Rural Schools Act funding.

The 15-member Idaho Panhandle Committee members solicit project proposals and then participate in collaborative decision-making to make recommendations to the U.S. Forest Service for distribution of Title II funds received through the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act.

The RAC will accept applications from Monday through Nov. 20 before meeting in December to review and make final recommendations. Application forms are available on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests website at the following: fs.usda.gov/main/ipnf/workingtogether/advisorycommittees.

IDFG seeks comment on fees

Idaho Fish and Game is taking public comment on a variety of proposed fee rules that would affect fees for refunds, hunter education and more.

Deadline to comment is Oct. 7, and people can comment via email to [email protected] or mail to Paul Kline, P.O. Box 25, Boise, 83707.

All of these rules must be approved by the 2021 Legislature to take effect. Based on public comment, the Fish and Game Commission will decide whether to forward these rules to the legislature for approval.

The fee rules have been in effect for some time but administrative procedure requires they be presented as new proposed rules for Legislative consideration.

The text of the proposed rules can be found in the Sept. 16 Idaho Administrative Bulletin, Docket No. 13-0000-2000F.

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