ASOTIN — Asotin County officials want the cougar hunting season extended to March 31 to help the Blue Mountain elk population.

At Monday’s commission meeting, the three board members signed a letter to the director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Olympia, saying cougar attacks are a major contributor to the possible devastation of elk in this region.

“We share a common concern with our constituents and were shocked at the most recent elk calf mortality study,” the letter states. “Coupled with other data on elk mortality, we have grave concerns about the apparent inadequacy in the protection of the elk and elk calves to date.”

The most recent findings indicate fewer than 10 of the 125 collared elk calves survived six months, which is “beyond alarming,” the commissioners said. “This is further evidence of the failure in the efforts to ensure a future and healthy elk population.”

A “simple and prudent” first step would be extending the cougar hunting season, according to the letter.

Other elected officials in southeastern Washington are sounding the same alarm, Commissioner Chris Seubert said. Balance is the key to helping the decimated elk herd, which has been in decline since 2017.

In other county business:

During the first meeting of the new year, Commissioner Chuck Whitman was named chairman of the board in 2022, and Seubert will serve as vice-chairman. Commissioner Brian Shinn handed over the gavel after filling the role in 2021.

The board approved lodging tax grant applications for Visit Lewis Clark Valley and the Asotin County Fair Board. The funds generated from lodging taxes are earmarked for tourism, officials said, and Visit Lewis Clark Valley is on track to receive $95,000 for promotional advertising, while the fair board is slated to get $11,200 to update the sound system at the fairgrounds.

Auditor Darla McKay was given permission to fill a vacant position in her office, and handle election services for Garfield County voters who reside in the Clarkston School District. A special election for the school district will be conducted Feb. 8.

During public comments, Howard Miller, of Asotin, shared his concerns about the rock piled at Swallows Park, the recent salary and staff increases in the city of Clarkston, and mask mandates. Dumping rock into the river near the park will create an even bigger mess, he said.

Shinn advised Miller to contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about the rock piles, and to attend a Clarkston City Council meeting to address the city’s rising rates and paychecks. The county has no jurisdiction on those matters, Shinn said.

Sandaine can be reached at kerris@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2264.