DRAFT WDFW 25-Year Strategic Plan: A Path For a New Era

Category: Strategic Plans

Published: June 2020

Pages: 29

Executive Summary

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 industries that support our economy and society. Fish, wildlife, and their habitats provide a powerful aesthetic and intrinsic value 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 population growth, development pressure, spread of invasive species, and climate change are contributing to declines in animal abundance, 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 has a high population-to-area ratio (it is the smallest western continental state with the second largest human population) and more people are moving here every day. Residents are seeking natural beauty, diverse and accessible outdoor recreational opportunities, and a vibrant economy. As such, there is growing understanding and demand for the protection and restoration of nature in order to sustain the many benefits that we derive from it.

Though science funding and resources have not kept pace with contemporary issues, 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 needs, climate science, and the impacts and benefits of human actions. Laws and regulations have improved over time; however, are still insufficient for the realities we face today as we are still observing irreplaceable conversion of habitat at levels that are affecting overall watershed functions and the persistence of Washington's fish and wildlife species.

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 enjoying opportunities and livelihoods supported by fish and wildlife, and there is a growing movement for stronger connections with healthier and more local and natural food sources (locavore). It is becoming more universally essential to the public that we manage these public resources in a manner that serves both existing and future generations. Quality science and WDFW's conservation principles, per its conservation policy, must continue to drive management decisions. Decisions must also reflect that Washington's residents are evolving to hold more diverse values and interests related to our state's fish and wildlife.

People's ethical relationships with fish and wildlife are shifting over time and human connections with nature, fish, and wildlife continue to change. More residents in Washington are expressing values which support co-existence with fish and wildlife, while many still hunt and fish for a healthy natural protein source. All of these values held by residents are important and must be figured into the stewardship and management of these public resources. The Department must also evolve if it is to reduce disruptive conflict deriving from these diverse values and interests as we work to put forward future policies, decisions, and actions. This evolution will require improving efforts to better understand the public's values, increasing connection and participation, and increasing conflict resolution skills.

Finally, the Department acknowledges that to be more effective, it must improve how it makes and communicates decisions, engages with communities and youth, and provides sustainable opportunities for both outdoor recreation and natural resource-based industries.

Collaborative Conservation

The Department does not have the authority nor mandate to achieve the necessary change alone. We must therefore also invest in helping others to be successful in their efforts to preserve, protect, and manage fish and wildlife. Conservation at this scale can only happen through collaboration; building and strengthening partnerships, particularly with other natural resource agencies; and creating synergies.

It's going to take all of us working together. Local, state, federal, tribal governments, non-governmental organizations, conservation organization, land managers, farmers, businesses, private landowners, hunters, anglers, and residents of all ages must cooperate and work towards a more resilient future for fish, wildlife, and people.

Purpose and Scope

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

It is important to understand that this strategic plan does not discuss all the Department's work, such as conflict management, enforcement, hatchery production, and wildlife population management, which will continue to be detailed in our other working documents. There are many ongoing agency functions that are critical and essential. These critical existing efforts are not inventoried here, but management decisions must continue to support this work in order to achieve the plan's vision.

This plan includes strategies that identify shifts in how we do things now; changes which we see as pivotal to modernizing the agency, protecting the state's fish and wildlife, and positioning WDFW for success. Each strategy includes near and longer-term actions, initial performance indicators, and 25-year desired outcomes. The strategies are:

  • Proactively address conservation challenges;
  • Build passionate constituencies through community engagement;
  • Connect people to nature and conservation through recreation and stewardship;
  • Deliver science that informs Washington's most pressing fish and Wildlife questions; and
  • Move WDFW towards operational and environmental excellence.

While this plan includes initial performance measures, we recognize that the Department needs to monitor performance across the breadth of its work which is critical to achieving this vision. This plan will serve as an impetus for the future development of Department-wide performance measures that: are important to the public, help us see the whole picture, and prompt us to continuously learn and adapt our work accordingly.

This plan was built on a 25-year timeframe. This timeframe allows the Department enough time to build on its work within a slower-moving biological context, where results can best viewed across multiple generations. It also allows the Department to seek an ambitious vision, while near and longer-term steppingstone actions move us towards achieving our performance objectives.


The plan identifies a set of desired future outcomes for each of the five strategies - if we are successful at achieving the actions outlined in the strategy, what might be possible? 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 which connects ecosystems across the landscape.
  • Abundant recreation, stewardship, 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 to people, who also have a strong sense of personal stewardship and responsibility for the environment.
  • A Department that reflects and connects with the diverse public we serve, and that is a model of great governance.

In Conclusion

To forge a fresh path for a new era, the staff advances this plan with guidance from our Fish and Wildlife Commissioners, key decision makers, collaborators, stakeholders, partners, employees, and the public. If the Department is to achieve its mission, it must show bold leadership - necessary in these unprecedented times - in conservation, recovery, management, and in the implementation of this plan.