Since tribal and non-tribal hunters impact the wildlife resources over much of the state, it is important that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the tribes work cooperatively, on a government-to-government basis, to develop management strategies that can meet the needs of both. This process is complicated because tribal ceremonial and subsistence hunting and state recreational hunting are two different philosophies steeped in different traditions and cultural heritages.
How tribes and WDFW work together
Many tribal governments take an active role in the management of wildlife resources. Most tribes with off-reservation hunting rights have a tribal hunting committee that meets to develop regulations and management strategies. Many tribes have hired biologists, or have access to biological staff members, who can advise them on the development of management approaches. Tribes have taken the lead in several areas on research projects to gather the information that is needed to better manage wildlife resources. WDFW and various tribes have worked together to develop herd plans for key wildlife populations. WDFW has also worked cooperatively with tribes to rebuild or augment populations that are below desired levels.
WDFW staff members from Wildlife and Enforcement programs meet with tribal representatives to discuss wildlife and hunting management issues. The discussions stem from a 1998 Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission policy directing the department to negotiate with tribes to resolve hunting issues. Hunting co-management is also a stated objective within the department's Game Management Plans and the area-specific elk herd management plans, all developed with extensive public-involvement.
WDFW and some tribes have entered into cooperative management agreements and Memorandums of Agreement/Understanding to foster and maintain a good working relationship. For wildlife management, WDFW has entered into the following hunting cooperative agreements:
- Skokomish Indian Tribes (2016)
- Squaxin Island Tribe (2015)
- Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (1998)
- Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation Settlement for Public Safety Violations (2012)
- Cowlitz Indian Tribe
- Medicine Creek Southern Boundary Determination (2002)
- WAC 232-12-253
- Mediator’s Report
- Nez Perce Tribe (2002)
- Point Elliott (2013)
Signatory tribes include: Lummi Nation, Muckleshoot Tribe Sauk-Suiattle Tribe, Stillaguamish Tribe, Suquamish Tribe, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Tulalip Tribes, Upper Skagit Tribe, and Nooksack Indian Tribe.