Past readers of this blog recall that in 2022 the WDFW commission cancelled the annual spring bear hunt in Washington, claiming lack of scientific evidence for the hunt, despite 48 years of data and the elk population being significantly below target. The main reason for the cancellation of this hunt has to do with the commissioners that our governor has appointed, the majority of which are anti-hunting. With these individuals controlling the commission, the outlook for hunting in Washington is not good. With spring bear off the table, many hunters are asking what species are next?
During 2022, a Washington hunting and conservation group took the steps to sue Governor Jay Inslee for failing to follow the Washington code which clearly states that governors “shall seek to maintain a balance reflecting all aspects of fish and wildlife, including representation recommended by organized groups representing sportfishers, commercial fishers, hunters, private landowners, and environmentalists.”
The governor’s appointments to the commission have not been balanced, nor included representation among all those groups. He has appointed 5 commissioners over the course of 2021 and 2022 who are all voting along anti-hunting lines. This is why we are seeing this seismic shift in how wildlife is being managed in Washington recently. What is even more scary is that there are two commissioners whose positions are up soon, one of which belongs to the most pro-hunting commissioner left.
These new commissioners are not all that interested in solving or addressing the significant decline in the elk population in the Blue Mountains, even though the department’s own data clearly shows that predation is a significant factor. They are content to watch our big game herds shrink as long as the hunting of predator animals does not occur.
What’s next you ask? It is hoped that other hunting and conservation groups will engage in this fight. The governor has been sued before due to ignoring Washington code in appointing commissioners in other areas. That lawsuit was settled with the governor having to require two of his selections to resign and appoint new ones in accordance with the Washington State Code. If we are able to win such a lawsuit then perhaps it will restore some balance to the Commission and our hunting opportunities will not be in the crosshairs as much as they are now.