OLYMPIA— After a decade of leadership in fostering scientific and collaborative management of state natural resources, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Jeff Koenings, Ph.D., has announced his resignation, effective Dec. 11.
“In collaboration with many other resource managers and Washington citizens, I’ve accomplished much of what I said I would do when I became director 10 years ago,” Koenings said. “I’m proud of the progress we’ve made in creating a comprehensive, gravel-to-gravel system of stewardship for wild salmon, re-building relationships based on mutual trust with tribal resource co-managers, bringing a scientific focus to state fish and wildlife management and improving the department’s business practices.”
Most recently, Koenings chaired negotiations on a new, 10-year chinook-harvest agreement under the Pacific Salmon Treaty, requiring British Columbia and Alaska to reduce harvest of Washington chinook by a million fish over the next 10 years. When implemented in 2009, the agreement will return many more wild salmon to state spawning grounds to take advantage of numerous estuary and freshwater habitat-restoration projects throughout the state.
Under Koenings’ leadership, WDFW established many new sustainable fisheries that allow harvest of hatchery-produced fish while sparing wild salmon listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. He also led the department’s participation in a broad effort to reform state hatchery operations to support wild-fish recovery.
Over the past decade, WDFW has acquired more than 109,000 acres of land for the protection of fish and wildlife habitats, ensuring their place in the public lands portfolio for future generations of Washingtonians.
Koenings said he plans to use his knowledge, experience and collaborative approach in ways that benefit national and international fisheries programs that are crucial for sustaining Washington’s fishing industry and its many economic benefits to the state.
“Change is everywhere, and I anticipate opportunities to use these skills in a number of forums,” said Koenings. “Washington lies at the center of the Pacific Coast and, as such, our interests range from southern California to the Bering Sea. In this global economy, the Pacific Rim countries are cooperating to conserve our marine resources as never before, and Washington state is a huge player in those discussions.”
Koenings’ 10-year career as WDFW director was the longest in the department’s history.
"Jeff has admirably served the department and successfully navigated it through some challenging times in the last ten years," stated Gov. Chris Gregoire. "His service is appreciated."
As director, Koenings brought stability to the 1,500-plus employee agency, fostered partnerships with stakeholders, promoted a good-neighbor policy in managing state wildlife lands and secured millions of dollars in federal funding for state fish and wildlife management.
Koenings was appointed WDFW director in January 1999, after working as an Alaska fisheries manager and a special assistant to the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He holds a doctorate in natural resources, a master’s degree in water resources and a bachelor’s degree in fisheries, all from the University of Michigan.
“The past 10 years have been extraordinary in terms of the diversity of challenges presented to WDFW and its leadership,” Koenings said. “But through it all, conservation of the resource through science-based decision-making has been our standard. I’ve been fortunate to lead an incredible group of talented professionals and they will always have my respect and admiration.”