New Hunting Policies for Okanogan and Ferry County – A Lawyer’s Perspective

As a criminal defense lawyer who works a lot in Okanogan and Ferry County, I read with interest the news that policy changes would apply to hunting in Okanogan and Ferry County.  The Colville Tribe and the State Department of Fish and Wildlife has struck a new agreement governing off-reservation hunting by Colville Tribal members.  The State game agents will no longer site Tribal members for six different hunting-related offenses, and will refer the cases to Colville Tribal Court instead.  The offenses are:

  1. Possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle
  2. Spotlighting
  3. Negligent hunting from a road
  4. Hunting while intoxicated
  5. Hunter orange requirement
  6. Hunting hours violations

Most of these offense are also illegal under the Colville Tribal Code, and presumably, the Tribal Prosecutor would take enforcement action once the referral is made.  The State Fish and Wildlife Department has suffered a lot of financial cutbacks, and there are not a lot of agents around to make these referrals.  For example, Ferry County used to have two agents that lived in the county, Tim Hood and Ron Cram.  However, both men have since retired, and no WDFW agents currently live in Ferry County.  During hunting season last fall, an agent from Stevens County came over to Ferry County for a little bit, but the enforcement was nowhere near what it was 3 years ago.

The Colville Tribe has disliked and fought the loaded firearm rule for years.  When I was a prosecutor in Ferry County in 1997, the Colville Tribe sent attorney Alan Stay to Republic to fight a ticket like that.  The agreement signed by the Colville Tribe and the Fish and Wildlife Department is not binding on the local independently elected prosecutors, and it will be interesting to see if further legal battles continue.  Loaded firearms in vehicles are illegal under the game code (RCW 77.15.450) and the general criminal code (RCW 9.41.050).  Load firearms are often discovered by county sheriffs and state troopers when they are conducting their patrols.  Will they refer their cases to the local prosecutor or to the Colville Tribal Prosecutor?  There may have been a concern by state officials that the Tribal prosecutor would not want to prosecute these offenses. Time will tell.  There are a lot of offense that the Tribe takes more serious than the State of Washington.

Steve Graham is a lawyer who works on hunting cases in eastern Washington.


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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
Law Office of Steve Graham
1312 North Monroe Street, #140
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 252-9167
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