Washington’s Wild Future is a multi-year initiative by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to build a stronger and more effective state agency that is better positioned to tackle major management challenges in the coming years.
WDFW launched the new initiative with public “listening forums” in Lacey, Mill Creek, Selah, Spokane, Vancouver, and Wenatchee.
More than 400 Washington residents attended at least one forum, and WDFW received about 2,500 email and online comments through mid-December.
Feedback from people who either commented online or attended six regional forums hosted by WDFW this fall form the foundation of this initiative and are summarized in this report.
Most WDFW stakeholders understand the challenges of fish and wildlife management in an increasingly urbanized state, where the current population of 7 million is expected to grow by another 1 million in just 15 years. But understanding these challenges doesn’t mean Washingtonians agree on how to meet them.
- Expanded and restored recreational access: Many comments have focused on (1) addressing restrictions imposed by private landowners, especially industrial timberland owners, (2) preserving and improving access to public lands, and (3) expanding opportunities for people who do not fish or hunt.
- Increased law enforcement: Many people support expansion of WDFW’s Enforcement Program, recognizing that violators can undermine conservation efforts, reduce recreational and commercial opportunities, and harm local economies and natural resource industries.
- Simplified fishing rules and clearer explanations: The public strongly supports simplified fishing rules, and anglers expect them to be presented more clearly in the annual rule booklet and on the website. Many people want the department to create a mobile app to help anglers find the rules for specific bodies of water.
- Land stewardship: WDFW heard a wide range of views about land management, but there was widespread support for increased stewardship activities, such as habitat restoration and noxious weed control.
- Habitat protection: Representatives of conservation groups urged stronger enforcement of permits issued through the Hydraulic Project Approval program; improved protection of riparian areas; and correction of barriers that prevent salmon and steelhead from reaching their spawning grounds.
- Outreach to an increasingly diverse population: Many participants urged WDFW to do more to reach out to young people, and several recommended the department make more information available in Spanish and other languages.
- More opportunities for public engagement: Individuals and representatives of outdoor groups consistently urged WDFW to create more opportunities for volunteers and for partnerships with non-profit groups. Many others cited the need to improve the WDFW website and its ease of use.
- Land management and acquisition: Some commenters urged the department to increase its efforts to conserve habitat by purchasing property and conservation easements. However, others object to actions that remove private property from local tax rolls or block future development.
- Wildlife management: The department’s carnivore management program and endangered species protection and recovery efforts drew a wide range of comments, from full support to strong opposition.
- Salmon management: WDFW has received many comments about salmon management. Opinions are divided over many issues, including the allocation of salmon stocks among recreational, commercial, and tribal fishers; the effectiveness of the North of Falcon negotiations; and salmon management tactics for specific bodies of water.
- Steelhead management: There is broad support for conserving and recovering wild steelhead, but strong differences of opinion over how to achieve those goals. Some would boost hatchery steelhead production, but others would restrict or end the release of hatchery steelhead in western Washington rivers.
- The relative weight of science and community preferences: Some Wild Future commenters believe science alone should drive fish and wildlife management decisions. Others believe additional factors, such as public acceptance of coexistence with predator species, must also be considered.