Washington's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy


This document is provided for archival purposes only. Archived documents do not reflect current WDFW regulations or policy and may contain factual inaccuracies.


Published: September 19, 2005

Pages: 788

Washington's diverse topography, exposure to Pacific Ocean currents and weather patterns, and location on the migratory path of many wildlife species make it one of the most biologically diverse states in the nation, encompassing seacoast, shrub-steppe, native prairie, parts of four major forested mountain ranges, and Puget Sound. In fact, Washington contains two ecosystems found nowhere else in the world: the Olympic rainforest and the channeled scablands of eastern Washington. These ecosystems and the biological diversity they support range across a landscape that extends from the Pacific Northwest Coast and Puget Sound in the west to the Columbia Plateau and Northern Rocky Mountains in the east. Consequently, Washington is home to a remarkable variety of fish and wildlife species--a natural heritage important to the long-term health and economic security of every resident of the state. However, changes to the landscape and native habitat, primarily as a result of human activity, have put many of these species at risk. There is a great need to be proactive, to protect what we already have, and to keep common species common before they become endangered or at risk.

In order to receive federal funds through the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program (WCRP) and State Wildlife Grants (SWG) program, Congress charged each state and territory with developing a comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy, now known as Wildlife Action Plans (WAP). These proactive plans will help conserve wildlife and vital natural areas before they become too rare and costly to protect.

In consultation with other governmental and nongovernmental organizations, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) developed a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWCS) with the intention to create a new management framework for the protection of Washington's species and habitats in greatest need of conservation. Guiding principles for Washington's CWCS include conservation of species and habitats with greatest conservation need while recognizing the importance of keeping common species common, and to build and strengthen conservation partnerships with other conservation agencies, tribes, local governments, and non-governmental organizations.

Although WDFW is driven by planning at many different levels, from multi-agency salmon recovery plans to individual Wildlife Area plans, creation of the State Wildlife Grants program and the CWCS requirement provided an opportunity for WDFW to undertake an Agency-wide effort to reassess wildlife conservation priorities and set a new direction for the future. Specifically, the CWCS process provided the impetus for:

  • a thorough reevaluation of priorities for species and habitat conservation
  • a transition from statewide to ecoregional conservation
  • acceleration of the evolution from species management (fine filter) to a more ecosystems-based management approach (coarse filter)
  • expanding the emphasis on biodiversity conservation, at the statewide and ecoregional scales

In times of diminishing habitat and declining revenues for conservation, it has been important for WDFW to initiate a new round of strategic planning and begin to establish new ground rules for how we and our conservation partners prioritize species, habitats and conservation actions--and where we direct future funding and human resources to address these priorities.

Fish and Wildlife Action Plan

In 2005, Washington, along with forty-nine states and six territories, completed a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy to fulfill a federal requirement to obtain funding from the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) program. It was one of the farthest-reaching national conservation efforts in nearly 30 years. These strategies, now called Wildlife Action Plans (WAP), provide a significant opportunity for Washington State as a valuable conservation tool and to gain significant future funding. Further, the high profile of this effort within the state and federal government, private conservation community and Congress has raised expectations that the State's management of our fish and wildlife resources will be focused through this planning process.

Washington's Wildlife Action Plan (WAP) serves as the guiding framework in an adaptive management process. It will inform integration of management projects conducted to address conservation threats to Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and their associated priority habitats. It will:

  • Facilitate the evolution of the CWCS into a true action plan with localized activities identified at the ecoregional scale.
  • Continue to re-examine and redefine the relative priority of wildlife species and associated habitats.
  • Integrate the CWCS into the Thirty-Year Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.
  • Coordinate multi-agency land acquisition with other state and local agencies through the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO).
  • Accelerate coordinated planning for species and habitat conservation among federal and state land management agencies.
  • Complete local habitat assessments and develop new and better databases and mapping products for local governments to use in Growth Management Planning.
  • Better integrate management of marine and aquatic ecosystems with terrestrial ecosystems, both within WDFW and among state and federal agencies.
  • Incorporate identified species and habitat conservation priorities into operational work plans within WDFW and other conservation partners.
  • Incorporate specific conservation actions into WDFW's cost accounting systems to help develop and monitor project budgets and priorities.

The Washington Biodiversity Council's Thirty-Year Biodiversity Strategy holds many commonalities with the WAP, especially in terms of the conservation challenges, actions and incentives programs. WDFW holds a position on the Council, thus allowing the Agency to coordinate for biodiversity management and, equally as important, further connect with the state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and major stakeholders who are represented on the Council. Since there are many overlaps between the two plans, WDFW's participation on the Council guides implementation of the WAP with added emphasis on a multi-entity, statewide mandate.

The first step in implementing Washington's FWAP will be to incorporate as many components of the CWCS as possible into the Thirty-Year Biodiversity Strategy to indicate areas of biodiversity importance on the landscape. The next step will be to coordinate with the Biodiversity Council staff during their public outreach in order to present and enhance the value of the FWAP. Lastly, WDFW will develop Fish & Wildlife Action Plans for each ecoregion that facilitate implementation of the fish and wildlife aspects of the Thirty-Year Strategy and also serve as the implementation mechanism for the Washington WAP.

Perhaps most importantly, the FWAP is all about communication: communication between Washington State agencies, stakeholders and non-governmental organizations, federal agencies, and tribes. It increases WDFW's ability to achieve meaningful conservation by combining our strengths with the Washington Biodiversity Council and the Washington Department of Natural Resources' Natural Heritage Program. It can be used by all conservation partners to guide the development and implementation of habitat management activities by both public and private land managers, and provide consistency between individual and statewide conservation goals. It will maintain communication channels so that public and natural resource managers can benefit from the information.

Executive Summary

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Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.