Seattle — The Seattle City Council votes Monday morning on an agreement to turn natural resource management in the White River watershed over to the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe despite a long history of game violations by tribal members, according to state records released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Under the proposed agreement with the City of Seattle, the Muckleshoot Tribe would take over the responsibility for managing state game in return for concessions to enhance in-stream flows and water quality in the White River watershed. The agreement excludes the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) from its traditional role of enforcing game laws.
Muckleshoot Tribe members have a long history of game law violations, including poaching, hunting and fishing out of season, exceeding take limits and questionable hunting practices such as killing pregnant does, according to WDFW records obtained under a Public Records Act request by PEER. In addition, state efforts to persuade tribal authorities to police their members have proven futile.
The WDFW records covering the past decade detail dozens of incidents, citizen complaints and the building frustrations of game agents. The White River watershed is home to populations of cougar, bear, elk and deer. Violations by Tribe members described in the WDFW records include—
- Over-hunting the dwindling elk herd;
- Using dogs to run down cougars wearing research tracking collars; and
- Illegal netting and excessive take of protected wild salmon, including killing salmon as they spawn.
“Given the Tribe’s track record, it would be prudent for the City Council to retain Department of Fish and Wildlife responsibility for managing game,” stated Washington PEER Director Sue Gunn. “The river restoration aims of the agreement do not require sacrificing the watershed’s wildlife – there does not have to be a trade-off.”
PEER points to a similar agreement by the City of Tacoma that maintains state oversight on tribal hunting in the Green River watershed and recommends that Seattle use Tacoma’s plan as a model for tribal hunting within its watershed.
“If the Tacoma plan works for the Green River, Seattle should consider using it for the White River,” Gunn added.