Hunting and fishing are a way of life for many Washingtonians – a pastime passed down from generation to generation. For many, hunting and fishing are a way to connect with family, harvest organic protein, or even just get outdoors.
Hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and other outdoor activities contribute much to Washingtonians’ quality of life. Such activities enhance residents’ health, wellbeing, and can even enhance senses of belonging and inclusion.
The Department’s 25-year strategic plan identifies the development of a R3 plan for hunters, anglers, and nature appreciators as a near-term action under the strategy Engage communities through recreation and stewardship. While this document is focused on R3 efforts for hunters and anglers, the Department is also expanding efforts to improve public awareness of fish and wildlife conservation needs, expand volunteer and environmental education initiatives, and increase engagement with Washington’s diverse communities in its decision making in separate parallel efforts. In addition, the Director’s Office has recently established a new work unit that consolidates outreach staff in order to better communicate and engage Washingtonians and better utilize social science in its decisions.
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation was founded by sportspeople who identified the need to conserve the nation’s fish and wildlife resources, including buying licenses and establishing state managed fish and wildlife agencies. Hunting and fishing participants contribute significantly to fish and wildlife conservation through buying licenses and buying equipment and supplies that are subject to federal excise taxes that are then distributed back to state fish and wildlife agencies. In addition, hunters help wildlife managers achieve population management objectives and address agricultural damage. Thus, it is critical for state fish and wildlife managers to continue to provide sustainable opportunities to hunters and anglers to perpetuate the conservation and management of its resources held in trust for the public. The human population of Washington state continues to increase dramatically, with many of these new residents attracted to the region’s rich natural resources and outdoor opportunities. These population changes also reflect changes in outdoor activities, with noticeable declines in hunting and fishing. These declines challenge the relevancy of these traditions.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW or Department) intends to lead in the development of strategic actions and tactics to maintain or increase hunting and angling participation in Washington. Recent, and perhaps temporary, COVID-related increases in hunter education graduates and license sales is a clear indication of strong public interest that WDFW needs to capitalize on to retain those participants. This R3 plan considers existing R3 plans and efforts and contains strategies and tactics to address hunter and angler recruitment, retention, and reactivation for all demographics, as well as strategies specifically focused on underrepresented communities and diverse audiences. For decades, WDFW has administered programs to provide access to fishing and hunting opportunities. Some examples include: National Hunting and Fishing Day; mentored pheasant hunts; youth fishing events; squid jigging events; partnering with Washington Outdoor Women for their annual summit; Annual Statewide Trout Derby; Fish Washington initiative; First Turkey Program, Turkey Slam; WDFW Hunt Planner; Hunting Prospects; Fishing Prospects; Hunter Education Program; Master Hunter Program; and Private Lands access programs. While these events are a great opportunity to invite diverse audiences to the hunting and angling heritage, WDFW needs a strategic plan to reach more Washingtonians. It is WDFW’s hope that this plan will be a hub of national R3 investment and will serve as a model for our diverse partners and stakeholders.
This plan identifies R3 efforts for Washington, and partnerships are key to its success. WDFW will lead many aspects of this plan, but there is a sincere desire and need for partners to take the lead with support from WDFW.
This plan includes background on the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model (ORAM), national and statewide trends and draft goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics to enhance Washington’s R3 efforts.