More Fishing & Hunting Is Coming To Washington

The Washington Outdoors Report

On April 8th, David Bernhardt, the Secretary of the Interior, announced his intention to open up more than 2.3 million acres across America for increased fishing and hunting opportunities. This would occur as early as this fall on 97 national wildlife refuges and 9 national fish hatcheries managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS).

This is part of a push by President Donald Trump’s Administration and the US FWS to open more access to the refuges. With this addition hunting will be allowed at 399 refuges and fishing permitted at 331.

The announcement garnered applause from the CEOs of several conservation organizations to include the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Coastal Conservation Association and the National Wild Turkey Federation. This week, we take a look at the nine refuges and fish hatcheries where new fishing and hunting may take place in Washington State.

National Wildlife Refuges:

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge: Located south of Cheney in Eastern Washington, 231 acres on the Upper Turnbull Slough currently open for youth hunting one weekend in September would open up for additional youth hunting opportunities in October and November.

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge: Situated in Southwest Washington in Pacific County, the region has long been one of the premier places to hunt Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer. Under this proposal, new acreage on the refuge would open up for hunting. Specific areas include 2,181 acres at Leadbetter Point, 396 acres in the South Bay Unit and 143 acres at the Nemah Unit to allow elk and deer hunting for the first time.

National Fish Hatcheries:

Fish hatcheries operated by the US FWS seem like unlikely places to fish or hunt, but the land these hatcheries sit on often encompasses a great deal of acreage outside of the actual hatchery itself.

Abernathy Fish Technology Center: Bank fishing for salmon, steelhead and trout would open for the first time along a portion of Abernathy Creek owned by this Center in Cowlitz County.

Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery: The US Fish and Wildlife Service wants to open up migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting on this complex for the first time. This proposal though is a real head scratcher. There are several hundred acres adjacent to the fish hatchery in Leavenworth and there is trail system there used by hikers and wildlife watchers. These trails near the Icicle River are also popular with tourists who come here to ride horses or go on winter sleigh rides with Icicle Outfitters which has a longstanding concession contract to operate here. This, and the fact there are homes and a retreat center nearby, make this a very unlikely hunting area.

I spoke with Jim Craig, the hatchery complex manager. He told me, “We do have small areas at the Leavenworth and Entiat Fish Hatcheries open for salmon fishing at times but there are no areas suitable for hunting except for a small amount of land we have at Snow and Nada Lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Even this land is essentially just the shoreline of the lake and its already open (for grouse hunting and for the September High Buck Hunt)”.

As for additional opportunities, Craig agreed the grounds around the hatchery are not appropriate for hunting and won’t be opening for that activity. In Craig’s words, the increased opportunities promised by the Dept. of Interior at his hatchery complex in North Central Washington are “Much ado about nothing.”

Little White Salmon And Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery: Lands near these hatcheries in South Central Washington could see hunting for the first time for everything from crow and grouse to bobcat, deer, elk, bear and turkey. When it comes to the Little White Salmon, the US FWS wants to open 114 acres of hatchery-owned lands west of Cook-Underwood Road.  Due to safety concerns hunting will be allowed only with shotgun, bow, and arrow. As for Spring Creek, some 50 acres of hatchery-owned land in the Big White Ponds Area west of State Route 141 would open for hunting.

Willard National Fish Hatchery: According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Sport fishing would be allowed for the first time through access to some 600 feet of bank fishing along the west bank of the White Salmon River located 1400 feet downstream of the Cook-Underwood Bridge.

Do you want to give your input to the Department of Interior about these proposed changes? You can do so by going to https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FWS-HQ-NWRS-2020-0013-0001. Comments will be accepted until June 8th.

 

 

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