An amended bill passed this month may allow potential hunting opportunities at 4 Washington state parks.
The new bill would introduce a three-year pilot project to allow hunting at four Washington state parks. Though still unspecified, two of the parks would be located west of the Cascade Mountains, and two would be located east of the Cascades.
The amended bill passed out of committee 9-2 this month. Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, sponsored the original measure in part to help preserve "the family hunting spot" next to Twin Harbors State Park in Grays Harbor County, which is under consideration for addition to the state park.
Blake stated, "I go there every year, just once a year, to kind of remember my father and grandfather, and spend some time out there."
Hunting in all 111,000 acres of Washington state parks is prohibited. However, there are approximately nine million acres of other lands within the state (Fish and Wildlife sites and DNR holdings) currently open to hunting.
The state parks agency currently manages over 125 parks and facilities, and opposes the pilot project. And they're not alone. Lisa Lentz, stewardship program manager for the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission, believes that since many Washington state parks are in close proximity to housing areas or are developed with campgrounds, "Hunting could compose a significant safety concern."
Hunting could create a risk of conflict because all state park lands are open to hikers, birdwatchers and other users. People feel parks are a refuge for people and animals and provide a safe place to recreate during hunting season.
The coordinator for Citizens for Parks and Recreation, James L. King Jr., predicts that the approval of hunting in Washington state parks could cause anti-hunting sentiment among park users.
Ultimately, the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission could decide which parks would allow hunting, with assistance from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW). The WDFW would assist in a public process to select the appropriate state park locations away from residential areas.
Others look favorably on the potential increase in hunting opportunities. Jerry Gibbs, of Gig Harbor, has been hunting in Washington for 40 years. He believes hunting is becoming rare because of increasing costs and diminishing access to open lands. For example, Gibbs mentioned that the cost of permits required to hunt on Weyerhaeuser Forest lands can be up to $250 a year.
At this time, House Bill 1346 has been referred to the House General Government & Information Technology Committee for additional consideration.
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