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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


February 01, 1997
Contact: Jeff Weathersby, (360) 902-2256

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Survey shows Washington residents willing to pay more to protect fish and wildlife

PORT TOWNSEND -- Washington citizens cherish their fish and wildlife and most people are willing to pay higher taxes to protect them.

Those are two key findings of a scientific opinion survey conducted by Decision Data Inc., a Kirkland research firm. The survey of 801 households was conducted last September and October for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Results of the survey were presented to the Fish and Wildlife Commission at its meeting here Friday.

"We've known this state's natural wonders are important to its citizens. People want their children and grandchildren to enjoy them too," said Lisa Pelly, chair of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. "The survey confirms again how much fish, wildlife and the habitat they require are treasured."

"Just as importantly, we have learned 75 percent of households interviewed are willing to invest up to $100 each year in new taxes if the money is earmarked for fish and wildlife," she added. Some 66 percent of the respondents were willing to pay up to $200 per year in new taxes to protect fish and wildlife.

Bern Shanks, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said, "Now we know what Washington's citizens value. Our Northwest quality of life is directly related to fish and wildlife. We know they don't like the fact that some of our salmon and steelhead runs already are being listed as endangered species by the federal government. Several more could follow this year. And the list of threatened and endangered wildlife species continues to grow as the rapidly expanding human population continues to consume or degrade the water, forest and steppe lands which these species require."

"In other words, Washington values its fish and wildlife and they aren't being adequately protected," he said.

Shanks emphasized the 801-household survey was "very scientific and credible" and will strengthen the commission's role in making policy decisions."

"This citizen feedback is timely and we already are applying it. Washington residents soon will be asked to approve a state Wild Salmonid policy that will be our roadmap to wild salmon and steelhead recovery," Shanks said.

In the survey, 57% percent of the respondents rated the health of fish and wildlife populations as poor or fair. Only 13 percent said they were in excellent or very good condition.

Shanks said results of the survey will be one of the tools the department uses to make fish and wildlife management decisions that reflect the best science and the values held by Washington's citizens.

The survey found those values include:

  • 97 percent say it is important to have opportunities and places to see and experience wildlife
  • 94 percent say it is important that fish and wildlife have places to take refuge from human activity
  • 93 percent believe that healthy fish and wildlife populations are indicators of a healthy environment for people
  • 87 percent say society has a responsibility to protect fish and wildlife even though there are many other problems
  • 86 percent believe society has a moral obligation to preserve all species of wildlife
Most of the respondents (75 percent) see the loss of habitat -- the places that provide the life needs of food, water, shelter and reproduction -- as an important cause in the decline in the state's wildlife. Seventy-one percent of the respondents who were not active hunters, fishers or environmentalists agreed the loss of habitat was a major cause of the decline of fish and wildlife. Seventy-five percent of the respondents attributed the loss of habitat to some form of development.

Participants in the survey said the following policies should receive higher priority:

  • Protection of fish and wildlife habitat threatened by development, logging, pollution and overfishing
  • Stream restoration for wild trout and salmon populations
  • Recovery programs for wild steelhead and salmon populations
  • The use of volunteers for habitat restoration and other conservation projects
  • Protecting and enhancing fish and wildlife populations
  • Providing more information to the public about ways to protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat.
According to Decision Data, the 95 percent confidence interval for the survey's findings was plus or minus 3.5 percent. In other words, the findings are accurate within 3.5 percent on the high or low side.

The 95 percent confidence level means 19 of 20 duplicate studies would produce the same findings.