Director’s Bulletin | January/February 2021
Here we are — it’s no longer 2020 (thank goodness!), and we continue to roll up our sleeves to work for wildlife, fish, habitat, and you.
We continue to face steep conservation and management challenges. For instance, Washington salmon face habitat degradation, a climate-impacted ocean, fish passage barriers, and heightened predation at artificial pinch-points — to name just a few.
Today, 10 sub-species of at-risk salmon and steelhead are failing to make progress — a reality that impacts the broader ecosystem as well as salmon fishing opportunities. We, and the treaty tribes, will once again face tough choices during the North of Falcon salmon season-setting process to optimize opportunities while ensuring conservation objectives are achieved.
We invite you to participate in the North of Falcon process. You can learn about the upcoming meeting schedule here. And there is also much work to be done on the conservation of so many other species like, elk, bumblebees, Southern Resident killer whales, pygmy rabbits, sage grouse, bull trout, and bighorn sheep. I know Washington can pull together to support the healthy habitats needed to sustain our state’s unique and diverse flora and fauna, but it’s going to take some frank conversations, some compromise, and some new funding resources to achieve long-term success.
Fortunately, we see growing momentum devoted to this cause. The Governor’s proposed budget for 2021–23 provided strong support for our conservation efforts. In addition, bipartisan federal legislation should be re-introduced soon in the 117th Congress called the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. If enacted, it could bring significant, ongoing, dedicated funding to support biodiversity in Washington and throughout the United States.
We have a lot to be thankful for living in Washington and it deserves our collective efforts to see that fish and wildlife resources aren’t taken for granted. I’m passionate about Washington’s fish and wildlife heritage and I’m excited to see it continue into our future.
February is Black History Month
As our organization and others celebrate Black History Month, it’s sobering to reflect that, nationally, fish and wildlife communities are failing to serve Black Americans at the same levels as White Americans. Black people are 12 percent less likely to participate in wildlife viewing at home, 9 percent less likely to travel to do the same, and 7 percent less likely to go fishing. In fact, the number of Black people participating in hunting activities in this U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey was too small to obtain a significant sample size. There are likely many reasons for this — and we’re doing work here in Washington to understand more. We also believe that sharing stories about the natural resources careers of Black employees helps to welcome participation in the outdoors and in the profession. We want to thank Puget Sound Estuarium and KBMS radio for highlighting the work of two WDFW scientists: Fisheries Research Scientist Marisa Litz and Habitat Biologist Dr. Marcus Reaves. Their stories may help serve to inspire a more diverse natural resources workforce and greater recreational participation in the future.
2021 Legislative session underway
The 105-day legislative session kicked off on January 11. The Governor’s budget proposals, released mid-December, largely recognized the need to continue fish and wildlife investments during these times of increased public pressure and enjoyment of the outdoors. Washington State revenue forecasts anticipated in March 2021 will be critical to informing the legislature’s development of their final 2021–23 biennial budget. More information about WDFW’s budget requests and proposals can be found here.
Shrubsteppe and wildfire recovery proviso
At the request of bi-partisan cohort of legislators, WDFW is supporting a proviso designed to foster more resilient landscapes for wildlife and people. In 2020, some 800,000 acres of landscape burned in devastating wildfires.
The Pygmy Rabbit, a nearly extinct species in our state that the agency has worked to save for more than a decade, may have seen its Washington population halved by fires. Wildlife managers also estimate a population decline of anywhere from 30% to 70% in sage grouse because of fires, bringing the statewide population to dangerously low levels.
The proviso currently under consideration supports wildlife habitat and private landowners affected by the fires, and guides stakeholders to identify longer-term shrubsteppe and rangeland conservation needs, including wildfire prevention, recovery, and restoration actions to sustain habitat and working lands.
This Land is Part of Us,’ a view into the wonder of shrubsteppe
The shrubsteppe of central Washington’s Columbia Basin is a land of rich biodiversity, vibrant communities, and poignant beauty. It is a place both iconic and increasingly at-risk. We recently released a beautiful new video, “This Land is Part of Us” created in partnership with Conservation Northwest that illuminates the magic of the shrubsteppe experience, as well as the challenges it faces. For wildlife lovers, hunters and anglers, indigenous peoples, farmers and ranchers, outdoor recreationists and so many others, this land is no desert devoid of life, This Land is Part of Us.
DFW will host live ‘Waterbirds of Washington’ event with Audubon, Ducks Unlimited and USFWS
WDFW is hosting an online, interactive event at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20 to highlight waterbirds, the spectacle of spring migration, and to virtually visit some of the hidden gem locations across Washington for waterfowl viewing and hunting. Pre-registration is not required. Please visit: zoom.us/j/95133923218 at approximately 9:55 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20 to take part. A recording of the live event will be available on YouTube within a few days following the event.
Big Fjord project: State works with fishing guides for coastal cutthroat research
Hood Canal volunteer anglers fishing aboard guide boats and along the shore are reeling in more than just fish. They are also contributing to a year-long research project led by the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group (HCSEG), Coastal Cutthroat Coalition (CCC) and WDFW to inform coastal cutthroat migration and abundance. With funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the effort joins ongoing community-science projects in Washington studying sea-run cutthroat trout survival and life history. We are thrilled to collaborate with recreational fishers to learn more about coastal cutthroat and how to better conserve this unique species. Check here for more details on this project, and here for other volunteer opportunities.
Wild Washington lesson plans and live interactive events connect youth to nature
In Fall 2020, WDFW initiated a new series of educator lesson plans to connect students to the outdoors. During the first quarter, we collaborated with partners to publish lessons that align with state environmental sustainability and national science learning standards. The lessons are designed to equip students with the knowledge, social, and emotional skills needed to think critically, and problem solve around natural resource issues. In January we offered our first live interactive session on Beavers: Nature’s Engineers. On Feb. 22 students will connect with an enforcement officer, on Feb. 25 students can attend a Salmon Talk with Research Scientist Marisa Litz, and on March 19, get ready for “Living Fossils, Lampreys Live”. Watch for more live events, and compelling lesson plans as we continue to connect Washington learners with nature in relevant and exciting ways.
Fish, wildlife, habitat volunteer project grants available
Through Feb. 28, WDFW is accepting grant applications for volunteer projects that benefit fish, wildlife, and the public’s enjoyment of them. WDFW estimates having approximately $867,000 available through the Aquatic Land Enhancement Account (ALEA) for projects occurring between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2023. The program funds five major types of projects, although others may be considered: artificial fish production, facility development, public education and outreach, habitat restoration, and scientific research/community science.
DFW seeks comments on 2021–2023 hunting seasons
WDFW is seeking comments on the second round of alternatives for the upcoming 2021–23 hunting seasons. The hunting season proposals are available on WDFW’s website for the public to provide comments through Thursday, March 4. We want to thank the more than 2,700 people who provided their perspectives during the initial comment round. Your participation helps us better understand your priorities, and now we ask you to help us fine tune the recommendations that we’ll present to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for consideration in March and April.
Licenses for 2021–22 available now
Open the door to your best season yet in 2021–22 with great deals through license combos like the Fish Washington and Get Outdoors packages. The Fish Washington package includes the annual freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, and shellfish and seaweed licenses, as well as the Puget Sound Dungeness crab and two-pole endorsements and a vehicle access pass.
The Get Outdoors package features everything in the Fish Washington package plus deer, elk, bear, cougar, and small game licenses, a migratory bird permit, a migratory bird hunt authorization, two turkey tags, and bear and cougar tags. Licenses for the new year are valid starting April 1, 2021. And don’t forget the Discover Pass. It makes a great gift and provides vehicle access to millions of acres of Washington state parks and recreation lands. You can buy licenses and passes by calling 360–902–2464, visiting our licensing website, or going to a license dealer near you.
Recreate Responsibly Coalition Messaging Flourishes in Social Media
As a founding member of the Washington Recreate Responsibly Coalition, WDFW works to inform and amplify #RecreateResponsibly messages that encourage people to protect themselves, others, and the outdoors. For so many, outdoor recreation and time in nature has brought much needed health, connection, and peace in an otherwise unsettling time. Many of our partners also contributed to this collective achievement, which was seen by people in their social media feeds more than 4 billion times.