OLYMPIA – With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games set to begin next February, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has completed two new nature maps pinpointing prime wildlife-viewing areas along two key routes to the Canadian border.
Both color maps – one focusing on the Interstate 5 corridor, the other tracing State Route 97 through the Okanogan Valley – are available free at WDFW regional offices and at visitor centers and ranger stations along both routes.
Chuck Gibilisco, WDFW watchable-wildlife coordinator, said the two nature maps are part of a coordinated effort by state agencies to publicize tourism opportunities in Washington in conjunction with the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“Birdwatching and other wildlife-viewing opportunities are a major draw for tourism, here and throughout the nation,” Gibilisco said. “Thousands of people will be traveling through our state to the 2010 Winter Games and we want to give them a reason to stop or come back sometime.”
The fold-up map for the I-5 corridor includes descriptions of 30 key wildlife-viewing points stretching from the Shillapoo Wildlife Area near the Columbia River to Semiahmoo Park just south of the Canadian border. The map of State Route 97 highlights attractions from bighorn sheep at the Chelan Wildlife Area to returning salmon at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery.
In addition, a new map of diverse scuba diving sites in Puget Sound is now available at state parks, marine science centers and WDFW offices in the area. “The new diving map is designed to introduce divers – and non-divers – to the spectacular world hidden beneath the surface of Puget Sound,” Gibilisco said.
All three maps are available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/viewing/guides/. Five regional birding guides, previously produced in conjunction with the Audubon Society, are available online at http://wa.audubon.org/birds_GreatWABirdingTrail.html.
Citing a 2006 report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gibilisco noted that money spent on wildlife viewing generates approximately $1.5 billion in economic benefits for Washington state each year – more than sport fishing and hunting combined.
“That’s one reason why the state Legislature directed the department to support wildlife viewing around the state,” Gibilisco said. “Another reason is that people tend to become more invested in the future of our state’s fish and wildlife once they have experienced them. We want to encourage people to have that experience.”