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New Rules Curb 'Wild' Behavior on Wild Lands

May 18, 2007

It'll happen again over Memorial Day weekend. The wildest activities on state-owned land are not caused by the wildlife. In the last two years, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife arrests and warnings have increased 20 percent. So the department is proposing a new set of rules for its 900,000 acres. They would restrict campground noise, alcohol use, off-road vehicles, firearms and fireworks, and even dogs off their leashes from April through August. But most of all, says Land Division Manager Mike Quinn, they would help protect fish and wildlife.

"We've seen habitat destruction as a result of off-road vehicle use, wildfires as a result of target practice. There's no question that some of these activities are affecting fish and wildlife and, of course, the other users that are out there as well."

Quinn says the department has had what he calls "very liberal" public access rules until now, but the increased use and greater diversity of users calls for some changes. The new rules will be finalized over the summer and voted on at a Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Anacortes in early August.

The department's Mike Quinn says public comments have been pouring in. So many, in fact, that the comment period, which was supposed to end this month, has been extended into June.

"A lot of the comments we've gotten begin with, 'We think these types of rules are long overdue, and they make perfect sense, BUT, we don't like this particular rule that affects us.'"

In addition to written comments (which can be sent to wildthing@dfw.wa.gov), the WDFW Commission will take comments at its June 1-2 meeting in Spokane. Read the proposed new rules online at www.wdfw.wa.gov/lands/land_line/.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA