Message from Director Susewind on COVID-19 response
In the last few days, I have made several unprecedented decisions in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Washington. As of today, 247 of our fellow Washingtonians have succumbed to this tragic disease. 5,984 more people are known to be infected, and an unknown number are unknowingly infected. As a nation, the United States now leads the world in the number of COVID-19 cases.
To reduce potential loss of life, I have directed my staff to cancel the April youth turkey hunt; delay some spring bear openings; close access to wildlife areas and water access areas, including our boat launches; and close all recreational fishing and shellfishing. These closures will last through at least April 8. I believe these measures are necessary to help limit non-essential travel and effectively implement the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.
Fishing, boating, or hiking on public lands normally wouldn’t violate social distancing guidance. However, we have recently seen unusually large crowds driving to, and congregating at, state public areas. Clearly, people were seeking an outdoor reprieve from their anxiety, which unintentionally caused higher transmission risk at these sites and in nearby rural communities.
We know many Washingtonians find great solace in spending time on the water or in the wilderness, and we are taking these painful steps only because of the urgent need to protect the health and well-being of our neighbors and our communities.
For the latest information around WDFW’s response to COVID-19, please continue to visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/covid-19-updates. We’ll also share social media content from our channels to help you stay connected with Washington’s diverse and amazing fish and wildlife - from the safety of your own home.
I request your patience and understanding as we ask you to stay home and stay healthy – just as the Governor has asked. You have a role in saving lives in your family, your community, and your state. The better we do now, the sooner we can all return to the waterways, lands, and activities that we so enjoy.
I promise to you that we will reopen access to these resources as soon as it is safe to do so.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Director