Hunting requires hard decisions

The Island County commissioners have gotten themselves into a fine mess with the decision to tackle the issue of hunting on county-owned lands.

They have antagonized the large segment of the population that is either against hunting in general or against hunting on the specified lands, while at the same time angering hunters with their proposed rules. They should have known better than to try to make everyone happy on this controversial issue.

Politicians generally like to make at least 51 percent of the people happy, but in this case the commissioners have made no one happy. And it’s only going to get worse, and more expensive, unless they take some bold action now.

What they have to do to solve the most controversial issues is go back to the way things were. That means reinstating the hunting ban that existed before the county purchased Deer Lagoon. The private owners, H&H Properties, hadn’t allowed hunting there for years because of all the housing adjacent to the lagoon. The county should never have allowed hunting to resume after it purchase the property as a wildlife preserve a few years ago. Nobody mentioned hunting as a reason to spend public money on one of Whidbey Island’s most precious wetlands.

The hunting ban at Deer Lagoon would help the county avoid an expensive lawsuit threatened by well-heeled area property owners, whose collective net worth easily dwarfs the county’s annual budget. They’ve already hired one of the better known environmental lawyers in the state. The county should not engage in a court battle to defend the newly claimed “rights” of a few hunters.

The situation is similar at the Kettles Trail area, where hunting legally has been virtually impossible since it became part of the trails system in the late ‘90s. Shooting setbacks from trails precluded hunting because of the web of trails used by joggers, bikers, equestrians, hikers, bird watchers and other non-hunters. The county commissioners unwisely proposed rules that open up a large area of the Kettles to hunting, going out of their way to create controversy.

As for the other county-owner properties, let state law govern hunting in those areas. The county doesn’t need its own hunting regulations for the already over-burdened Sheriff’s Department to enforce.

Hunters have to face the fact that densely populated Island County is a lousy place to hunt and they can’t expect the county to provide them hunting grounds in urbanizing areas.

The commissioners face some hard decisions, but that’s what you get for trying to please all of the people all of the time.

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