Washington’s diverse topography, exposure to Pacific Ocean
currents and weather patterns, and location on the migratory path
of many wildlife species make it one of the most biologically diverse
states in the nation, encompassing seacoast, shrub-steppe, native
prairie, parts of four major forested mountain ranges, and Puget
Sound. In fact, Washington contains two ecosystems found nowhere
else in the world: the Olympic rainforest and the channeled scablands
of eastern Washington. These ecosystems and the biological diversity
they support range across a landscape that extends from the Pacific
Northwest Coast and Puget Sound in the west to the Columbia Plateau
and Northern Rocky Mountains in the east. Consequently, Washington
is home to a remarkable variety of fish and wildlife species--a
natural heritage important to the long-term health and economic
security of every resident of the state. However, changes to the
landscape and native habitat, primarily as a result of human activity,
have put many of these species at risk. There is a great need to
be proactive, to protect what we already have, and to keep common
species common before they become endangered or at risk.
In order to receive federal funds through the Wildlife Conservation
and Restoration Program (WCRP) and State
Wildlife Grants (SWG) program, Congress charged each state and
territory with developing a comprehensive wildlife conservation
strategy, now known as Wildlife Action Plans (WAP). These proactive
plans will help conserve wildlife and vital natural areas before
they become too rare and costly to protect.
In consultation with other governmental and nongovernmental organizations,
the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) developed
a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWCS) with the intention
to create a new management framework for the protection of Washington’s
species and habitats in greatest need of conservation. Guiding principles
for Washington’s CWCS include conservation of species and
habitats with greatest conservation need while recognizing the importance
of keeping common species common, and to build and strengthen conservation
partnerships with other conservation agencies, tribes, local governments,
and non-governmental organizations.
Although WDFW is driven by planning at many different levels, from
multi-agency salmon recovery plans to individual Wildlife Area plans,
creation of the State Wildlife Grants program and the CWCS requirement
provided an opportunity for WDFW to undertake an Agency-wide effort
to reassess wildlife conservation priorities and set a new direction
for the future. Specifically, the CWCS process provided the impetus
- a thorough reevaluation of priorities for species and habitat
- a transition from statewide to ecoregional conservation
- acceleration of the evolution from species management (fine
filter) to a more ecosystems-based management approach (coarse
- expanding the emphasis on biodiversity conservation, at the
statewide and ecoregional scales
In times of diminishing habitat and declining revenues for conservation,
it has been important for WDFW to initiate a new round of strategic
planning and begin to establish new ground rules for how we and
our conservation partners prioritize species, habitats and conservation
actions--and where we direct future funding and human resources
to address these priorities.
In 2005, Washington, along with forty-nine states and six territories,
completed a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy to fulfill
a federal requirement to obtain funding from the State Wildlife
Grants (SWG) program. It was one of the farthest-reaching national
conservation efforts in nearly 30 years. These strategies, now called Wildlife Action Plans (WAP), provide a significant opportunity
for Washington State as a valuable conservation tool and to gain
significant future funding. Further, the high profile of this effort
within the state and federal government, private conservation community
and Congress has raised expectations that the State’s management
of our fish and wildlife resources will be focused through this
Washington’s Wildlife Action Plan (WAP) serves as the guiding
framework in an adaptive management process. It will inform integration
of management projects conducted to address conservation threats
to Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and their associated
priority habitats. It will:
- Facilitate the evolution of the CWCS into a true action plan
with localized activities identified at the ecoregional scale.
- Continue to re-examine and redefine the relative priority of
wildlife species and associated habitats.
- Integrate the CWCS into the Thirty-Year
Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.
- Coordinate multi-agency land acquisition with other state and
local agencies through the Recreation
and Conservation Office (RCO).
- Accelerate coordinated planning for species and habitat conservation
among federal and state land management agencies.
- Complete local habitat assessments and develop new and better
databases and mapping products for local governments to use in
Growth Management Planning.
- Better integrate management of marine and aquatic ecosystems
with terrestrial ecosystems, both within WDFW and among state
and federal agencies.
- Incorporate identified species and habitat conservation priorities
into operational work plans within WDFW and other conservation
- Incorporate specific conservation actions into WDFW’s
cost accounting systems to help develop and monitor project budgets
The Washington Biodiversity Council’s Thirty-Year Biodiversity
Strategy holds many commonalities with the WAP, especially in terms
of the conservation challenges, actions and incentives programs.
WDFW holds a position on the Council, thus allowing the Agency to
coordinate for biodiversity management and, equally as important,
further connect with the state and federal agencies, non-governmental
organizations and major stakeholders who are represented on the
Council. Since there are many overlaps between the two plans, WDFW’s
participation on the Council guides implementation of the WAP with
added emphasis on a multi-entity, statewide mandate.
The first step in implementing Washington’s FWAP will be
to incorporate as many components of the CWCS as possible into the
Thirty-Year Biodiversity Strategy to indicate areas of biodiversity
importance on the landscape. The next step will be to coordinate
with the Biodiversity Council staff during their public outreach
in order to present and enhance the value of the FWAP. Lastly, WDFW
will develop Fish & Wildlife Action Plans for each ecoregion
that facilitate implementation of the fish and wildlife aspects
of the Thirty-Year Strategy and also serve as the implementation
mechanism for the Washington WAP.
Perhaps most importantly, the FWAP is all about communication:
communication between Washington State agencies, stakeholders and
non-governmental organizations, federal agencies, and tribes. It
increases WDFW’s ability to achieve meaningful conservation
by combining our strengths with the Washington
Biodiversity Council and the Washington
Department of Natural Resources’ Natural Heritage Program It can be used by all conservation partners to guide the development
and implementation of habitat management activities by both public
and private land managers, and provide consistency between individual
and statewide conservation goals. It will maintain communication
channels so that public and natural resource managers can benefit
from the information.