Volunteers needed to assist with elk hunts near Mount St. Helens

Staff reportAugust 18, 2013 

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued its annual call for volunteers for a program to open an area near Mount St. Helens for elk hunting.

The cooperative effort has provided hunters access to 250,000 acres of private timberlands near Mount St. Helens the past six years.

As in previous years, the Weyerhaeuser Co. is prepared to give hunters holding special elk permits additional motorized access to a large portion of the St. Helens Tree Farm if enough volunteers can be found to ensure a safe and orderly hunt.

The agency is seeking dozens of volunteers to help during special elk-permit seasons scheduled from September-January.

Key tasks for volunteers include orienting hunters, staffing access points and maintaining safety buffers between hunters and active Weyerhaeuser operations, Sandra Jonker, regional wildlife manager for the department, said in a news release.

“The success of this program depends on our ability to recruit a dedicated team of volunteers to help us facilitate these permit hunts,” Jonker said in the release. “The amount of timberland that can be opened to hunting is directly proportional to the number of volunteers that sign up, so participation is vital to the continuation of this program.”

The program has attracted 50-60 volunteers per year since 2007.

Volunteer organizations, led by the Southwest Washington Land Access Coalition, have secured funding to reimburse volunteers for mileage accrued for participating in the program.

Other partners in the program include Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Cowlitz Game & Anglers, Yacolt Burn Sportsman Club, Washington State Archery Association, Eyes In the Woods, Vancouver Wildlife League, and the Washington State Bowhunters.

The program is designed to expand hunter access to areas of the St. Helens Tree Farm that are within Game Management Units 520 (Winston), 524 (Margaret), 550 (Coweeman) and 556 (Toutle).

Jonker said the access program — combined with the issuance of additional special hunting permits — has helped to increase harvest levels over the past several years throughout the Mount St. Helens elk herd. That is a key goal under the department’s management plan for the herd, the largest of 10 elk herds in the state.

“The department’s management plan calls for reducing the herd size to bring the number of animals into balance with available habitat,” Jonker said in the release. “We really appreciate the role Weyerhaeuser and all the volunteers have played in this joint effort.”

The Mount St. Helens elk herd plan, adopted in 2006, is available online at wdfw.wa.gov.

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