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Haugen offers new laws to restrict hunting in Island County

Citizens opposed to hunting in Deer Lagoon and on public trails in Island County are getting some extra fire power from Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen.

Haugen is sponsoring two new bills that would prohibit hunting near schools and would allow hunting on public trails on county-owned property only when stringent conditions are met.

Both bills, introduced last week have been referred to the senate committee on Natural Resources, Ocean and Recreation for a hearing Thursday in Olympia.

The bills were a direct result of the Board of Island County Commissioners failure to adopt a hunting ordinance in December, Haugen said.

“It’s such a huge frustration for citizens when local government fails its citizens. That’s what happened,” Haugen said.

The bills were written with a narrow focus in mind after the Board of Island County Commissioners declined to adopt a hunting ordinance that would have created a buffer zone in Deer Lagoon. The proposed regulations would have shortened deer season by six weeks on county land.

“It’s a safety issue. It’s not a threat to Second Amendment rights,” Haugen said. “I can’t imagine hunting on property with trails near homes and schools.”

Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley agrees with Haugen and will be testifying at the hearing.

“This is a huge safety issue in Island County,” Hawley said.

“It is a tragedy waiting to happen based on the increasing population density in the county,” he said.

After six public meetings in Island County last year, hunters and non-hunters were unable to compromise on the issue of hunting in the county.

Most of the near 400 residents of Useless Bay Colony signed a petition opposing waterfowl hunting in Deer Lagoon. In other areas of the county, the Kettles Trails and Camano Ridge, hikers and other recreationists opposed sharing the trails with deer hunters. Both sides threatened to sue the county if the proposed rules were adopted.

The language in the new legislation specifically addresses Island County issues.

Senate Bill 6598 would allow hunting on county-owned land with trail systems with the following conditions:

The sheriff’s office is provided with enough resources to secure the safety of all persons and property on and around such county-owned lands available for hunting. The board of county commissioners holds at least one public meeting a year on the issue of hunting on county-owned lands and notice is given.

A second bill would prohibit hunting within one mile of a public or private school serving students in preschool through 12th grade. The prohibition would be in effect during school hours and during any scheduled school activity or event. It also allows the Department of Fish and Wildlife to authorize a special hunting season if it determines that there is a need to hunt animals that pose a threat to human safety.

The bills apply to any county composed entirely of islands, and applies to counties with population densities greater than 100 persons per square mile.

Haugen said she expects the hearing room to be packed with both hunters and non-hunters.

In spite of the short Legislative session, Haugen said she is going to work hard to get this legislation heard.

“I know I can move it out of the Senate, then we will have to get it to the Legislature,” she said.

Residents near Deer Lagoon support the bill.

“This is clearly a positive move,” said Dave Haworth. He said he will be testifying at the hearing as a representative of the Useless Bay Colony.

For now, hunters can continue to hunt following the preexisting regulations.

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