Volunteers are needed for a cooperative effort that has provided hunters access to 250,000 acres of private timberlands near Mount St. Helens in the past five 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 state Department of Fish and Wildlife 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, said Sandra Jonker, regional wildlife manager for the department.
“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 a prepared statement. “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.”
Jonker noted that the program attracted about 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 Sportsmen Club, Washington State Archer Association, Eyes In the Woods, Vancouver Wildlife League and the Washington State Bowhunters.
The partnership between the department, Weyerhaeuser and the volunteer organizations is designed to expand hunter access to areas of the St. Helens Tree Farm that lie 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.
To take part
To participate in the St. Helens Land Access Program, volunteers can sign up:
Online: At wdfw.wa.gov/about/volunteer/sainthelens
WDFW Region 5 Office: 2108 S.E. Grand Boulevard, Vancouver, Wash., 360-696-6211
Bob’s Sporting Goods: 1111 Hudson Street, Longview.
Participants will be required to attend one of three orientation sessions, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the following times and locations:
Thursday: Natural Resources Building,, Room 175 A-B, 1111 Washington St. S.E., Olympia
Sept. 12: WDFW Region 5 Office: 2108 Grand Blvd. Vancouver
Oct. 10: Cowlitz Public Utility District Office, 961 12th Ave., Longview