WDFW 25-Year Strategic Plan: A Path to an Improved Era for Fish, Wildlife, and People


Published: November 2020

Pages: 28


Fish and wildlife hold intrinsic and substantive value for Washington residents and sovereign tribal nations. They are a significant part of our history, culture, and our future. Fish and wildlife feed us, both with nutritional substance and potent inspiration. Their habitats clean the air and water and moderate impacts from flooding and droughts. They provide recreational opportunities and important commercial industries that support our economy and society, locally, nationally, and internationally. All combined, these values underpin our biological, social, spiritual, cultural, and economic health. The Department must demonstrate bold leadership in conservation, recovery, science, and management in order to better achieve its mission.

Today’s Challenges

We recognize that human development and population expansion, the spread of invasive species, and climate change are contributing to declines in species and habitats. Business as usual will lead to insufficient habitat for lasting, viable fish and wildlife populations for our children and future generations.

Washington is the smallest western continental state with the second-largest human population, and more people arrive every day seeking natural beauty, diverse and accessible outdoor recreational opportunities, natural food sources, and a vibrant economy. As such, there is growing understanding and demand for the protection and restoration of nature in order to sustain its many benefits.

We know more today about what is impacting fish and wildlife than we did in the past. There is better scientific understanding of fish and wildlife habitat needs, the changing climate and the adverse impacts as well as benefits of human actions. Laws and regulations protecting fish and wildlife have improved over time, but may be insufficient for today’s realities as we observe the conversion of habitat at levels affecting overall watershed functions and they alone cannot assure the persistence of Washington’s fish and wildlife species. Improved public engagement and expanded collaborative and cooperative programs will be needed to allow healthy fish and wildlife populations to live together with our expanding human population. As a result, not only are some iconic northwest species being lost, but an abundance of animals, even common ones, are decreasing at alarming rates.

The Needs of Tomorrow

Fortunately, we know what needs to be done. If we act now, we can stem the rate of loss and change the current trajectory. Healthy fish, wildlife, and habitats safeguard our own existence into the future. People still receive significant value from opportunities and livelihoods provided by fish and wildlife. There is a growing movement for stronger connections with healthy, local, and natural foods. It is increasingly essential to the public that we manage our public resources for both consumptive and non-consumptive uses in a manner that serves existing and future generations. Quality science and WDFW’s conservation principles, per its conservation policy, will continue to drive management decisions. Decisions will be made with the understanding that Washington’s residents hold diverse values and interests related to fish and wildlife and yet will attempt to ensure legitimate access to the environmental benefits by all of Washington’s diverse people.

People’s connections and ethical relationships with nature, fish, and wildlife are varied. We have a responsibility, to manage fish and wildlife in trust for the public, to consider diverse values as long as they don’t jeopardize the sustainability of fish, wildlife, and nature for generations to come. With the diversity of values and expectations come different judgments about the appropriate management for fish, wildlife, and habitat (e.g. the levels of protection, harvest amounts and allocations, when or if removal is appropriate). This reality brings significant conflict and management challenges before the Department.

The Department will continue to evolve to understand and where possible, reduce disruptive conflict arising from the spectrum of the public’s values. This means increasing public engagement and participation, listening to understand and fostering conflict resolution skills. As we do so, we will be better equipped to find the best balance for competing interests among the residents of Washington while ensuring that we are achieving our mandates.

To be more effective, the Department can improve how it makes and communicates decisions, engages with communities and youth, works with our tribal partners, and provides sustainable opportunities for both outdoor recreation and natural resource-based industries.

Collaborative Conservation

The Department does not have the ability nor authority to achieve the necessary change alone. We must also invest in helping others’ efforts, to preserve, protect, and manage fish and wildlife. Conservation at this scale can only happen through collaboration and building new and strengthening old partnerships - including tribes and other natural resource agencies.

It’s going to take all of us working together. Local, state, federal, tribal governments, nongovernmental, and conservation organizations, land managers, farmers, commercial industries, private landowners, hunters, anglers, and others of all ages and backgrounds are needed to cooperate and work toward a more resilient future for fish, wildlife, and people.

Our Foundational Work

It is important to note that this plan’s action items do not discuss all of the Department’s work, which will continue to be detailed in our other working documents. There are many ongoing agency functions that are critical and essential. This existing foundational work, as informed by a zero-base budget analysis conducted in 2018 and listed below, must continue in order to achieve this plan’s vision.

To Preserve and Restore Habitat and Species

  • We recover and sustain diverse fish and wildlife populations.
  • We respond and work to mitigate conflicts between people and wildlife.
  • We protect fish, wildlife, and their habitat through permitting and regulation enforcement.
  • We consult with businesses, landowners, and governments regarding species impacts and legalities.
  • We reduce the risk and decrease the devastation of oil spills.
  • We ensure that there remains enough water in waterways to allow for healthy fish life cycles.
  • We ensure fish survivability by removing stream barriers and appropriately addressing water diversions.
  • We acquire funding for, and complete, habitat restoration projects.
  • We monitor and control aquatic invasive species.
  • We study and plan for climate impacts on lands, waterways, and resulting effects on species.
  • We promote habitat-friendly actions and activities.

To Provide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Opportunities

  • By Producing Hatchery Fish
    • We produce trout and warm water game fish.
    • We produce salmon and steelhead.
    • We build and maintain hatcheries.
  • By Managing Fishing Opportunities
    • We ensure recreational and commercial fishing opportunities and regulation enforcement.
    • We develop, negotiate, and implement fishery co-management plans.
    • We monitor and manage fin fish populations.
    • We monitor and manage shellfish populations.
    • We sell recreational fishing licenses.
    • We promote fishing and access to locally harvested fish.

To Provide and Manage Sustainable Hunting Opportunities

  • We enforce hunting opportunities and regulations.
  • We provide hunter education opportunities.
  • We set sustainable hunting seasons.
  • We survey game populations and population trends.
  • We study game species populations and their health.
  • We secure hunting access on private lands.
  • We sell hunting licenses.
  • We promote hunting opportunities.

To Provide Fish and Wildlife Habitat and Recreation

  • We monitor and enhance habitat for hunting, fishing, and conservation on WDFW-managed lands.
  • We acquire, sell, and work to provide safe public access to WDFW-managed lands.
  • We build and maintain safe, sanitary, and ecologically sound public water access sites.
  • We develop, organize, and promote wildlife viewing opportunities.
  • We develop, organize, and promote recreation opportunities.

To Meet Our Business Management and Obligations

  • We provide agency leadership and strategic direction.
  • We communicate agency matters with the public and legislature.
  • We manage finances and contracts.
  • We manage human resources.
  • We manage information technology.
  • We build and maintain office facilities.
  • We maintain agency records.
  • We respond to public safety incidents (enforcement).
  • We provide WDFW legal counsel.
  • We facilitate the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Purpose and Scope

This plan provides the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with a long-term strategic focus aimed at improving mission success.

These strategies will help us to shift how we do things now; making changes we see as pivotal to modernizing the agency, conserving the state’s fish and wildlife, and positioning WDFW for success. Each strategy includes near and longer-term actions, and 25-year desired outcomes. The strategies are to:

  • Proactively address conservation challenges,
  • Engage communities through recreation and stewardship,
  • Deliver science that informs Washington’s most pressing fish and wildlife questions, and
  • Model operational and environmental excellence.

This plan includes 25-year performance goals. These metrics and the development of more specific future work plans will help the Department to continuously adapt our efforts toward this plan’s vision and desired outcomes.

This plan was built on a 25-year timeframe, allowing the Department opportunity to build on its work within a biological context, where results can be observed across multiple specie’s generations. It also allows the Department to seek an ambitious vision, while near- and longer-term steppingstone actions advance us towards achieving our performance objectives.


The plan identifies a set of desired future outcomes from the successful implementation of each of the four strategies. In short, our desired future includes a Washington state where we see:

  • Healthy and sustainable fish and wildlife populations.
  • A restored network of resilient habitats that connects ecosystems across the landscape.
  • Abundant recreational, stewardship, commercial, and educational opportunities available to diverse populations.
  • Residents with a deep appreciation of the intrinsic value of nature and the benefits of fish and wildlife and who have a strong sense of personal stewardship and environmental responsibility.
  • A Department that reflects and Connects with the diverse public we serve, and is a model of great governance.

Draft documents

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