The Washington Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is exceedingly disappointed in the loss of the 2022 Washington Spring Black Bear season as a result of the tie vote by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission. The loss of this hunting opportunity in the face of data, testimony, and Washington Fish and Wildlife staff recommendations represents problematic leadership by Commission members and violates the core tenets of the North American Model of Conservation.
BHA has directly and effectively communicated the importance of the Spring Black Bear Hunt and using science to set and manage wildlife and hunting opportunity. That collective message from members, volunteers and your Board was sent to Commission via public input to bolster the validity of the recommendations made by the WDFW. Both Director Susewind and Dr. Stephanie Simek of WDFW spoke directly to the Commission in favor of the continuation of the season, using data driven analysis to make a compelling case. After the final vote, public comments made by dissenting commissioners clearly conveyed that they were neither interested in, nor trusted, the data provided by the WDFW. Instead, those Commissioners were reliant on previously held bias, fallacies and emotional arguments. Simply put, this represents a flagrant disregard for their mandate and is deeply concerning for hunting and angling issues set before the current Commission.
This issue of appropriate representation on the Commission is further complicated by the failure of the governor to have appointed a complete Commission as dictated by state law. Currently the Commission has only seated 8 of the 9 members required, and the remaining unseated position would be appointed from the Eastern Region of the state where most of the Spring Black Bear Hunting tag allotments exist. A tie vote, resulting in the failure to renew the Spring Black Bear Season for 2022, would not be possible if the Commission was fully appointed. Additionally, multiple members have yet to be confirmed by the state senate, rules that are in place specifically to protect the best interest of state wildlife policy and provide democratic oversight. As a Chapter, we call upon our elected officials in Olympia to uphold their responsibilities regarding the Commission to serve hunting opportunities and science-based wildlife management.
As advocates for sportsmen and sportswomen, we object to the Spring Black Bear Hunt decision and any further actions by the commission that diminish hunting opportunities in Washington State that are not based in sound science. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is calling on Governor Inslee to appoint the ninth member to the Commission representing Eastern Washington – an appointee that’s committed to upholding science-based wildlife management decisions and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. We will continue to keep the chapter membership informed regarding the season and our continued action to advocate on behalf of hunters, anglers, responsible management, opportunity and policy oversight.