Help guide the future of Washington’s wildlife

Help guide the future of Washington’s wildlife

Conservation Northwest / Oct 06, 2015 / Action Alert

 WILD NW action alert #249: Comment on WDFW’s “Washington’s Wild Future” initiative

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is currently asking for comments to help guide the future of the agency. This public input opportunity is part of WDFW’s new multi-year initiative, Washington’s Wild Future: A Partnership for Fish and Wildlife.

“I want to hear about what we are doing right, where we need to improve, and where we should focus our efforts and our funding over the next five to ten to 20 years,” says Director Jim Unsworth about the initiative. Unsworth was hired in early 2105 to lead the Department.

Tasked with conserving and managing Washington’s fish and wildlife, as well as regulating opportunities to enjoy, view and harvest them, the mission of WDFW is to “preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.”

It’s vitally important that conservationists from across our state speak up to help ensure a future that includes healthy, abundant wildlife populations (including carnivores) and protected, connected wildlife habitat.

As our top priorities, we believe WDFW should:

  • Increase focus and funding on non-game species, protecting and restoring Washington’s vast biological diversity.
  • Advance and maintain science-based policy.
  • Boost efforts to recover grizzly bears, wolves, lynx, fisher and other carnivores.
  • Pursue strategic wildlife habitat acquisitions and easements.
  • Manage motorized access to restore wildlife habitat quality.

Suggested Comments on Washington’s Wild Future initiative

Dear Director Jim Unsworth, WDFW staff and the Fish and Wildlife Commission,

Thank you for accepting comments from the public as part of the Washington’s Wild Future: A Partnership for Fish and Wildlife initiative. This is a welcome and encouraging opportunity to provide input on a vitally important public agency tasked with protecting and conserving our shared natural heritage. I applaud you for opening this dialogue and urge you to be transparent in reporting and sharing the feedback you receive.

Now and in the future, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife should:

  • Pursue science-based management for all fish and wildlife species, specifically carnivores. Social tolerance, harvest opportunity and other factors should be considered, but not above science-based wildlife management recommendations.
  • Increase conservation priority and focus on non-game species, including allocating more time, funds and staff resources towards non-game species recovery, conservation and habitat enhancement.
  • Increase WDFW conservation focus and priority on native carnivores as they recover in our state, including smaller carnivores such as lynx, wolverine and fisher. Native carnivores of all sizes are vital for healthy ecosystems and are an important part of our state’s natural heritage.
  • Operate with transparent process and decision making at all levels, from the Director and Commission to field and technical staff. WDFW is tasked with safeguarding and perpetuating a rich and diverse public resource: fish, wildlife and our natural heritage. As such, decisions and information that lead to those decisions should remain public in a prompt, open and transparent manner.
  • Recognize that WDFW is accountable to and operates on behalf of numerous Washington citizens and stakeholders. Hikers, campers, wildlife watchers, boaters, horseback riders and many others benefit from and care about healthy fish and wildlife populations just like hunters and anglers do. WDFW should increase participation with and seek input from these constituencies. In addition, WDFW should explore ways to allow outdoor recreationists and others to participate in increased direct funding of WDFW’s conservation and management efforts.
  • Participate in and support ongoing efforts to actively and responsibly restore a healthy population of grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem. Grizzly bears have been an important part of our state and region for thousands of years. They play a vital role for the health of the environment and other wildlife species, figure prominently in regional Native American culture, and contribute to the richness of our natural heritage. With only a handful of grizzly bears remaining in the North Cascades, we are at risk of losing this important piece of the region’s biodiversity. WDFW should support efforts to restore grizzly bears in the North Cascades in a way that incorporates thorough citizen, community and stakeholder input and fully respects tribal treaty rights.
  • Continue to support the existing Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and sustainable wolf recovery across our state, while working to promote social tolerance and reduce conflict between people, livestock and wolves. Continue to closely monitor interaction between wolves, ungulates and other prey species, assessing for any negative impacts. Wolf recovery can and should work for people, wolves and other wildlife populations too.
  • Seek to be more proactive in pursuing conservation actions and policies before species become threatened or endangered. While doing so may require new strategic partnerships and collaboration with outside stakeholders and groups, preemptive strategies to conserve and restore fish and wildlife are preferred to reactive ones, and are likely to be more cost efficient over the long term.
  • Incorporate policies that address the threats of a changing climate into the Department’s planning and management. This should include the carbon storage benefits of old forests when considering management actions regarding WDFW-operated land, as well as fish and wildlife’s need for increased habitat connectivity, intergovernmental coordination (such as with British Columbia), and ecosystem resilience to help them adapt to a changing climate.
  • Continue to actively and strategically acquire land for Wildlife Areas and other WDFW-owned or managed wildlife habitat, as well as for outdoor recreation including hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. WDFW should be applauded for its recent land acquisition initiatives and other community partnerships that improve public and private land for wildlife and outdoor recreation. This has strong benefits for wildlife conservation, local economies, and outdoor recreation opportunity, and should be continued.
  • Increase harvest regulations enforcement and anti-poaching initiatives. While recognizing that funding and staff resources to combat poaching and enforce fishing and hunting regulations are stretched thin, the illegal harvest of fish and wildlife is far too common in our state. And far too uncommon is the presence of enforcement officers on our state’s waters and wildlands. A lack of funding does not negate the dire need for increased enforcement and anti-poaching initiatives to protect our natural heritage.
  • Prioritize wild fish and wildlife over hatchery- and farm-produced animals. Prioritizing and conserving wild fish and wildlife has strong benefits for healthy ecosystems, while fish and wildlife produced by hatcheries and “game farms” can cause severe negative impacts on wild fish and wildlife species as well as harm to healthy ecosystems. Wild fish and wildlife recovery and conservation should be prioritized over hatchery and “game farm” production.
  • Regulate and enforce motorized use, especially Off-Highway-Vehicle, All-Terrain-Vehicle and Off-Road-Vehicle use, on all WDFW owned or operated areas to reduce negative impacts to sensitive wildlife such as elk. Doing so also protects quality hunting, hiking, wildlife watching and other outdoor recreation opportunities that can be negatively impacted by excessive motorized use. Roads that severely harm wildlife and habitat security or are unsustainable ecologically or economically should be removed.
  • Adhere to WDFW’s mission statement when considering revenue opportunities relating to WDFW owned or operated lands. Revenue from selective timber harvest, livestock grazing, or other natural resource use may be compatible with WDFW’s mission, but it must be managed as a secondary consideration that does not in any way infringe upon the goals of conserving and protecting fish and wildlife populations, providing sustainable fish- and wildlife-related recreational and commercial experiences, and maintaining a high quality of life dependent on access to our state’s rich natural heritage.

Thank you again for this important initiative and for your work for a wild future in Washington state.