March 28, 2022

Washington Commissioners Reject 2022 Spring Bear Season in a 5-4 Vote

Contact: Keely Hopkins, Manager Pacific Region

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 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (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.

After a roller coaster ride of rulemaking and votes, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioners have once again rejected the 2022 Spring Bear Hunting Season. 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 voted 5-4 against the season at the March 19 meeting.

As previously reported, the Commissioners suspended the hunt in November when a 4-4 tie vote failed to reach the majority consensus necessary to continue the season. 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 to begin expedited rulemaking to reinstate the 2022 season. The Commissioners adopted the petition in a 4-3 vote at a special meeting on January 21. Shortly after the approval of the petition, Governor Inslee appointed 3 new Commissioners—all of which voted against the final rule at the March meeting.

The Spring Bear Hunt will be an ongoing issue in Washington and CSF will continue working with in-state partners in support of a season. Additionally, CSF would like to thank all organizations and individuals that testified at the March 11  public hearing or submitted comments in support of reinstating the season. 

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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