Commission discusses coastal steelhead and shoreline armoring; makes spring bear hunting decisions

by WA Department of Fish & Wildlife Staff

OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission met over two days this week to discuss coastal steelhead and spring bear policy, among other topics.

On Thursday, the Commission's Fish Committee discussed the upcoming coastal steelhead season and the draft Coastal Steelhead Proviso Implementation Plan. The plan will go before the full Fish and Wildlife Commission at its Dec. 8-10 meetings. WDFW Director Kelly Susewind will announce the 2022/2023 coastal steelhead regulations by Dec. 1.

On Friday, the full Commission met in Olympia and via Zoom. The first agenda topic was shoreline armoring and a proposed amendment to WAC 220-660-370 (SSB 5273). This bill requires that anyone desiring to replace residential marine shoreline stabilization or armoring must use the least impactful, technically feasible bank protection alternative for the protection of fish life. Staff briefed the Commission on comments received and changes proposed to the amendments to the Hydraulic Code rules needed to implement SSB 5273. The Commission delayed a decision on the topic until the next meeting in December.

For the remainder of Friday, the Commission discussed black bear topics. The Commission denied a petition to immediately begin rulemaking for a 2023 Spring black bear hunting season. The Commission approved a proposal to immediately begin/resume possible rule making or rule making amendments for Black Bear Timber Damage Depredation Permits.

The Commission moved into a discussion that integrated a workshop on spring black bear policy. Commissioners voted 5-4 to not adopt recreational black bear hunting in the spring. However, the Commission discussed support for the Department to propose hunts that would utilize recreational licensed hunters when needed to address certain management objectives, such as timber damage, achieving ungulate management objectives, or human-wildlife conflict issues and expressed that this was not precluded by the motion.

In other business, the Commission supported the Chair submitting a letter to Congress to urge passage of the federal Recovering America's Wildlife Act that provides financial assistance to states and tribes working to prevent vulnerable fish and wildlife species from becoming endangered and recover those already imperiled. 

The meeting was recorded so members of the public who missed it can watch at their convenience. To see information about past and future Commission meetings, as well as ways to participate, please visit WDFW's website.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is a panel appointed by the governor that sets policy for the WDFW. WDFW works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

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