Hunting restrictions proposed by county

With hunting season just around the corner, Island County Commissioners are considering limiting hunting and shooting at Deer Lagoon and in the northern area of Greenbank Farm.

The proposed ordinance was developed in response to complaints by citizens that birdshot from hunters shooting with shotguns in the area of Deer Lagoon has struck houses and is endangering people, their domestic animals and property. Deer Lagoon is a popular duck hunting area.

The new ordinance, if approved, would essentially create a buffer zone around residences near the county-owned portion of the lagoon.

The specific language relating to Deer Lagoon says that the new code would outlaw hunting and shooting within 150-feet inside the county-owned portion of Deer Lagoon. The prohibition is only within 100 feet inside the boundary when the discharge of firearms is from the surface of the dike going through the property.

The proposed ordinance further states that hunting should be allowed on the Kettles Trail and Camano Ridge Trail properties between Sept. 30 and Nov. 15.

Currently, Island County posts signs at the entrances to the Kettles trails warning people that hunting is occurring in the area.

Non-hunters are urged to wear bright orange clothing when they are using the trails.

That is not enough restriction for some residents who see themselves as sitting ducks for hunters, however.

Several in the Deer Lagoon area have reported being hit by biirdshot and question whether the proposed buffer will make any difference.

To hunters, the closure of the Greenbank area removes 25 huntable acres in the 191-acre property. And the changes to Deer Lagoon will remove about 18 acres of hunting land from the 357-acre property.

If the ordinance is adopted, enforcement of the new law will be done by the Island County Sheriff’s Office. The Department of Fish and Wildlife enforces illegal hunting or poaching issues, but the sheriff’s office enforces county ordinances.

“While we welcome improved safety for all our citizens, enforcing the new ordinance will be difficult with our current manpower,” said Jan Smith, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office. “The sheriff’s office was reduced by one deputy in 2002, but we will make our best effort with our limited manpower.”

It is unlawful to access to the county-owned portion of the lagoon through private property without the permission of the property owner.

The most common point of public entry for hunters has been from Double Bluff Road on the west side of the lagoon. Parking was difficult there until a recent paving project widened the shoulder. Now there is room for several cars or pickups.

Will the proposed buffer zoner be enough to satisfy both hunters and those citizens opposed to any shooting in Deer Lagoon? Useless Bay Colony resident Salli Schonning says no.

Schonning said it’s a worthless compromise being offered by the commissioners to residents who oppose hunting and shooting in the lagoon.

“The problem is there is no teeth in the regulation because it’s unenforceable,” Schonning said.

Hunters and residents living near Deer Lagoon clashed during a public meeting this spring. The two sides will have another opportunity to comment on the proposed ordinance next month.

In 2004, Island County Public Works acquired 357 acres of Deer Lagoon using grant money from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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