Opinion

A limited hunt at center forest might just work | Editorial

Closing Island Center Forest for a little more than two weeks for a limited deer hunt makes some sense.

First, as several Islanders pointed out a year ago, the publicly owned forest, with its nine miles of well-maintained trails, is increasingly popular, and there’s really no safe way to allow hiking, biking and horseback riding to co-exist with hunting. The circuitous warren of trails could easily put a hunter and walker in close proximity without either knowing it, orange vest or not. “Multiple use” is a wonderful democratic concept, but not when one set of users is carrying firearms in a small semi-suburban setting.

It would be inconvenient for the many Islanders who use the forest to stay out for a few weeks. But it may be the only way to make the concept of multiple use a reality at Island Center Forest.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, by shutting down the forest to all uses except hunting, King County managers might finally be able to determine if Island Center Forest is a place hunters are even interested in frequenting. 

Currently, it seems, very few hunters find the thickly forested, 360-acre expanse worth their time. Vashon hunters, for the most part, say they don’t bother with the county-owned woodland, since deer, as we all know, want to browse on the stuff we grow in our gardens and orchards — not Douglas fir and salal in a dense forest.

Some hunters, however, say they’ve given up on Island Center Forest not because of the paucity of deer but because of the high number of humans. They could indeed bag a deer there, they say, but are uneasy about the prospect, worried they might drag out a dead animal just as an anti-hunting Islander comes along. 

Will hunters turn out if the rest of us stay away? A 17-day hunt — when the forest is closed to all other uses — might help county managers determine if that is indeed the case.

Should the proposal go forward, we urge the county to make sure this is a pilot project with clear parameters. Public officials need to keep tabs on how many people actually choose to hunt in Island Center Forest, a number currently not available, and how many of those hunters actually take a deer. 

A few hunters have said they don’t want to see Island Center Forest closed to hunting in part for symbolic reasons. The forest stands as a last bastion of a way of life that is disappearing on Vashon, they note, the only public lands left on the Island where a hunter has access.

But before the county decides to make a limited hunt an ongoing policy for Island Center Forest, closing the trail system to the dozens of walkers, bikers, runners and equestrians who regularly go there, policy makers need to know that the county-owned woodland holds more than nostalgia and symbolism for the region’s hunting community.

 

This fall, should the county follow through on its recommendation and do so with care, we might find out.

 

 

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