Roadkill keeps the peace


In January, hunters from eastern Washington's Methow Valley delivered 300 pounds of roadkilled deer to six western Washington tribes. The delivery signaled the start of a groundbreaking agreement, in which the tribes agree to stop hunting in the valley in exchange for the meat.

Tribal hunters have lost much of their traditional hunting ground on the rainy side of the Cascades, and in recent years have started to travel to the less-populated eastern side to hunt mule deer. Although the tribes were taking a minute percentage of the estimated 5,000 to 20,000 mule deer, hunters weren't happy.

"We had two problems," says Bill White, a local rancher and hunter. "They were hunting out of season and they were killing deer pushed out of the mountains by snow. It's like they were shooting ducks in a pond." Most hunters, however, weren't aware that the tribes have a historic treaty right to hunt at any time on all undeveloped federal and state lands in Washington.

Tensions were rising fast when Todd Wilbur, a Swinomish tribal member, intervened. He called White to talk, and eventually ranchers and tribal members met and came to consensus.

"This exchange has opened up understanding between former adversaries," says Wilbur. "It has been so successful that we hope that it can serve as a model for other groups in the state."

Copyright © 2000 HCN and David Williams

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