At least that’s the assessment of Kim Thorburn, a Washington Department of Fish and Game commissioner from Spokane. “I’m pretty upset about what’s going on,” she said. “We’re looking at hunters as an enemy.” Although she believes the assault has been brewing for a long time, Thorburn points to a recently filed lawsuit looking to outlaw spring bear hunting and last year’s ban on coyote-killing contests.
“They just come one item at a time,” she said. Meanwhile, the appointment of two new WDFW commissioners by Gov. Jay Inslee has drawn criticism and concern from hunters and hunting groups. Some environmental organizations praised the appointments. The commissioners both have backgrounds in wildlife conservation and advocacy. “I’m very excited with the direction Gov. Inslee has taken with the most recent appointments to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission,” said Sophia Ressler, Washington wildlife advocate and staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity in a news release.
The direction Ressler praises is giving others pause. Mark Pidgeon, the president of the Hunters Heritage Council, said his group wasn’t contacted prior to the appointment of the two new commissioners, and he worries that the commission, which traditionally has representatives from a variety of industries and cultures, is no longer balanced. “To us, that throws the commission out of balance,” he said of the two appointments. The two new commissioners are King County resident Fred Koontz and Jefferson County resident Lorna Smith. A third eastern Washington commission seat formerly held by David Graybill of Chelan County will be filled in the near future. Pidgeon and other advocates point to other instances in which hunting opportunity has been lost. In 2019, WDFW ended a popular antlerless deer hunt in eastern Washington. Going even further back, many point to the banning of hound hunting and bear baiting in 1996 via a statewide initiative. [full article]