Elk hunt on Hanford Reach controversial with tribes

Dec 5, 2011
Originally published on December 2, 2011 3:54 pm

RICHLAND, Wash. – A plan to allow elk hunting on the Hanford Reach National Monument is getting mixed reviews from Northwest tribes. The highly-protected area in southeast Washington used to be part of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and much of it has been long closed to the public.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife's elk hunting plan calls for killing about half the herd to bring it down to 350 animals. The aim is to protect fragile sagebrush wildlands.

Skilled hunters would be given permits for elk cows only, and be trained on how to not damage historical tribal sites. The area has long been considered sacred to many Northwest tribes.

Harry Smiskin is the chairman for the Yakama tribes. He says the protection of cultural sites there is very important to Yakama members.

"Because it's their legacy, it's their history, it's their forefathers that were in that area," Smiskin says. "We would hope that our non-Indian hunters would also exercise that same type of discretion and not harm those sites."

But the tribes of the Umatilla Reservation in northeast Oregon say they haven't been consulted and have a lot of concerns about hunts on the Hanford Reach.

They consider this area part of their traditional hunting and gathering range and are currently consulting with their legal team.

On the Web:

Draft hunt plan: http://www.fws.gov/hanfordreach/documents/draft-elk-hunt-plan.pdf

Hanford Reach National Monument:

http://www.fws.gov/hanfordreach/

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