It looks like 2021 is going to be another year for the books. While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to be a huge part of our daily lives, I’m incredibly proud of how our staff have continued to deliver on our mission — to conserve biodiversity and provide sustainable fish, wildlife, and outdoor opportunities.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to pause and reflect around the holidays. I think about our successes and our challenges of the past year — what worked well, and where we need to lean in and together pull a bit harder heading into 2022. I also spend a lot of time thinking about the professional, dedicated staff that comprise the team here at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Staff like:
· Jon Gallie who recovers Columba Basin pygmy rabbits in central Washington.
· Charlene Hurst who coordinates our recreational and commercial fisheries on the Columbia River.
· Joanna Anderson who oversees the purchasing of supplies for the agency to ensure that staff have the equipment they need to do their job.
· Sergeant Hwa Kim who patrols Marine Area 7 around the San Juan Islands to ensure compliance of vessel regulations to protect endangered Southern Resident orcas.
· Mike Ritter who develops technical recommendations to influence the siting of energy projects to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife.
· Anne Marie Masias who works with the public to fulfill their public records requests.
· Mitch Combs who partners with tribes and volunteers to raise kokanee and rainbow trout to release at Lake Roosevelt to mitigate for the impacts of hydropower dams.
· Kyle Hunter who coordinates and schedules all of the work requests for urgent WDFW facility and infrastructure repairs.
· Darric Lowery who manages the Scatter Creek wildlife area and surrounding units for prairie restoration and public recreation.
I could go on, knowing that despite the challenges we face, WDFW employees take pride in public service and our conservation mission. I’m incredibly proud of Jon, Charlene, Joanna, Hwa, Mike, Anne Marie, Mitch, Kyle, Darric, and the 1,900 staff that are all individually applying their talents and expertise to make WDFW a premier natural resource agency.
I hope you can take a moment within your busy lives to get out and enjoy the biodiversity of Washington state, and as you do, please reflect and recognize that behind those opportunities are dedicated staff at WDFW that ensure that fish and wildlife populations and outdoor opportunities are sustained into the future.
I hope you have a safe and joyful holiday season, surrounded by friends and family.
Don’t let the gloomy weather hem you in
The rainy, dark, colder seasons of fall and winter in Washington can carry a case of cabin fever if you let them keep you indoors. Thankfully, the Life Outdoors knows no off season, so there are still plenty of options for getting outside if you’re willing to gear up a little and maybe try something new. In that spirit, WDFW staff have gathered some ideas for ways to get you, your family, and friends out there despite the urge to hunker down inside with sweaters and hot cocoa. Check out the full list on our Medium blog. And if you’re sharing online, don’t forget to tag your outdoor adventures with the hashtag #LifeOutdoorsWA.
Fisher releases highlight value of collaboration
Through our ongoing partnership with the National Park Service and other federal agencies, tribes, Conservation Northwest, The Calgary Zoo, and others, in recent weeks WDFW staff have released nearly 20 additional fishers to the Olympic Peninsula. It’s the latest event in a nearly two decades-long project to restore the native species to Washington. Read more in our news release or in press coverage from Field & Stream and The Grays Harbor Daily World. While the Washington Fisher Reintroduction Project met its goal in early 2020, releasing more than 250 total fishers across the Olympic and Cascade ranges, project partners saw an opportunity this year to boost the numbers and genetic diversity of fishers on the Olympic Peninsula using animals live-trapped in Alberta.
Cowiche land acquisition connects Oak Creek Wildlife Area units
The Fish and Wildlife Commission approved two land transactions this month: one to acquire 290 acres of shrubsteppe habitat in Yakima County that will link two units of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, and another to acquire a 34-acre conservation easement in Thurston County that provides wetland habitat for Oregon spotted frog. The Yakima County property connects the Cowiche and Oak Creek units of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, and will benefit mule deer, elk and other species. Linking these large sections of public land also benefits hunters, birders, and outdoor recreationists. Please keep in mind that as of Dec. 15 several wildlife area units in Yakima and Kittitas counties are closed to public access or open to walk-in access only to protect wintering wildlife; see the news release for details. In southeast Washington, part of the Asotin Wildlife Area is also closed to protect wintering elk and nearby agricultural crops.
Weekender: squidding picks up, prime time for waterfowl hunting and Christmas bird counts
Our December Weekender is packed full of outdoor opportunities — visit the webpage for recommendations on getting outdoors across each region of the state. After a slow start, Puget Sound squidding has picked up between Seattle and Tacoma. Waterfowl hunters statewide are enjoying the prime of the season as each storm brings fresh flocks of ducks and geese winging south. This month is also an excellent time for birding, including the longest-running community science project in North America: Audubon’s 121st annual Christmas Bird Count, which occurs between Dec. 14, 2021 and Jan. 5, 2022.
Difficult decisions for coastal steelhead conservation follow robust public engagement process
Amid forecasts for low returns, on Nov. 30 WDFW staff and tribal co-managers announced conservation-minded restrictions to sport and tribal fishing on Washington’s coastal rivers. These measures are to protect wild steelhead populations, provide sport fishing opportunity where possible, and support tribal treaty rights. While this was no easy decision, it followed a robust public engagement process that included four online open houses, presentations before the Commission, and extensive dialogue with local stakeholders, guides, anglers, conservation groups and others. This work will continue through the new Ad-Hoc Coastal Steelhead Advisory Group, with a focus on developing a plan to protect and recover native and hatchery-produced steelhead for each river system of Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, and coastal Olympic Peninsula, to be submitted to the Legislature by the end of 2022.
Forest management practices benefit fish, wildlife, and people
After another challenging wildfire season, we can be proud of the proactive action taken to ensure the landscapes WDFW manages are healthy and resilient to support a diversity of fish, wildlife, and people. Learn more in this new blog post. Since 2014, WDFW has used a variety of forest management tools to mitigate risks and restore forests to their historic, healthier states. Restored forests decrease severe wildfire risk, improve health and habitat for fish and wildlife species, and protect homes and local communities. WDFW’s forest management work is an ongoing process that requires regular maintenance in many cases after the initial work is done, but the payoff and benefits are worth the effort.
Next round of razor clam digs confirmed for Washington coast
This month our coastal shellfish staff were excited to announce 26 tentatively scheduled razor clam digs in January and February, and confirmed that the latest round of December digs can proceed as planned. See the Dec. 9 news release for dates and other details. There were a lot of great digging days this fall — in many cases with quick limits even for new diggers and families — and we’re looking forward to a productive winter season as well. Beginning with the final 2021 digs on Dec. 30, the daily limit of razor clams will return to the usual 15 clam limit, which should help prevent exceeding quotas set before the season.