Date Published: March 2004
Number of Pages: 53
Washington State’s varied geography, climates, and ecosystems have created one of the richest and most diverse habitats in the nation, giving rise to over 640 vertebrate species, including 365 bird species; and thousands of invertebrates.
Past conservation efforts of hunters and anglers and other conservationists have enabled some species to thrive despite habitat encroachment by expanding communities. While support for traditional recreational hunting and fishing activities remains steadfast, another wildlife activity has become increasingly popular and important: wildlife viewing as an outdoor recreational pastime. Economic contributions to the state’s economy are $1billion per year. (U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau. 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation- Washington.)
In recognizing the importance of this growing interest in promoting wildlife viewing opportunities, in 2003 the Washington State Legislature passed SB 5011, requesting that the departments of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED) host a working conference to draft a strategic plan to promote wildlife-viewing tourism in Washington. The Legislature specified that WDFW and CTED should create a plan that would promote wildlife viewing as a means to provide sustainable economic development in the state’s rural areas while maintaining the state’s wildlife diversity. The Legislature also requested that steps to implement the plan be developed. In addition to SB 5011, the Legislature also passed Second Substitute House Bill 1973 stating the legislature finds that tourism is a growing sector of the Washington economy.
Washington has a diverse geography, geology, climate, and natural resources, and offers abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing. Nature-based tourism is the fastest growing outdoor activity and segment of the travel industry and the state can take advantage of this by marketing Washington's natural assets to international as well as national tourist markets.
Expanding tourism efforts can provide Washington residents with jobs and local communities with needed revenues. Current efforts to promote Washington's natural resources and nature-based tourism to national and international markets are diffuse and limited by funding. A collaborative effort among state and local governments, tribes, and private enterprises can serve to leverage the investments in nature-based tourism made by each.
The conference requested by SB 5011 was held in Olympia on September 3, 2003. It was attended by 150 people, representing a broad spectrum of agencies, individuals and businesses involved in wildlife tourism-private business, counties, cities, state and local government and tribes, and the input from the attendees forms the core of this plan. A survey of other watchable wildlife activities in the state was also gathered for presentation at the time of the conference , and a detailed listing of partners providing widlife viewing opportunities is included. Further input was gathered from participants at a Washington State Tourism Forum on November 19, 2003, and through a general public review conducted in December 2003 through January 2004
This report is a summary of the major findings of the conference, the survey, the forum and the general public review. It contains WDFW ‘s and CTED’s combined vision of the future of wildlife viewing as an economic stimulator, along with recommended strategies and tasks to implement the plan. This report is not the end - instead it is a beginning.
Wildlife viewing is an annual billiondollar industry in Washington. With the proper care and nurturing, this economic boost to the state’s rural economies can be increased. This plan for wildlife viewing in Washington is a start in that direction.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development. Wildlife Viewing Activities in Washington: A Strategic Plan. Report to the Washington State Legislature, March 2004.