January 24, 2022

2022 Spring Bear Hunt is Back on the Table after WA Commission Passes CSF-Signed Petition

Contact: Keely Hopkins, Pacific States Assistant Manager

Why It Matters: Since 1999, Washington state has offered a spring black bear hunting season. This season is a fine-tuned conservation and wildlife management tool utilized by WDFW in the implementation of their overall game management plan, which is executed in pursuit of their mission to protect, preserve, and perpetuate wildlife and the ecosystems upon which they depend. WDFW carefully sets permit numbers based on several factors that considers population estimates, prey level concerns, and human/bear conflicts. In addition to being an important management tool, the spring hunt helps to generate critical conservation funding through hunting license and tag sales as part of the American System for Conservation Funding. This funding is then used by WDFW for habitat restoration, public land access projects, and other statewide conservation efforts of which all Washington residents enjoy.

The 2022 Spring Bear Hunt is now back on the table after the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioners adopted the CSF-signed petition in a 4-3 vote at a special meeting on January 21st.  The adoption of this petition has now cleared the way for the Commission to reinstate the 2022 Spring Bear Hunting season—but it will first have to undergo a formal rulemaking process and then be approved at their upcoming meeting on March 17th and 19th.  

Despite scientific data that supports a spring bear hunting season, and a recommendation from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to continue the hunt, the commission suspended the 2022 Spring Bear Hunt in 4-4 tie vote at their November 19th meeting. Following the suspension, CSF joined several in-state partners, including the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, the Hunter’s Heritage Council, and Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation, in submitting a formal petition to the Commission.  With Commissioners McIsaac, Thorburn, Linville and Anderson all voting in support of the petition, the motion carried, and the Commission can once again consider the upcoming season. One unknown variable that could impact the outcome of the March vote is whether Governor Inslee moves to fill either of the vacant seats that currently exist on the Commission—either the Eastern Washington position that has been unfilled for over a year, or the Western Washington seat that was recently vacated by Commissioner Koontz following the November spring bear hunt vote.

It will be critical for the hunting and conservation community to show up in strong support of reinstating the 2022 Spring Bear Hunt when the Commission meets on March 17th and 19th, which may also be preceded by a March 11th hearing. CSF will continue to keep you updated as the time and format is set—but in the meantime be sure to mark your calendars and plan to make your voice heard!  

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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