Director’s Bulletin | Jan/Feb 2023
As the days get a little longer, I get more excited about coming out of my winter hibernation and spending more time outside.
Fortunately, the first months of the year offer great opportunities to break away from ‘cabin fever’ by attending one of the regional sports show events around the state. Several hunting and fishing trade shows give outdoor enthusiasts the chance to check out the latest gear and gadgets, listen to ‘how-to’ seminars on fishing and hunting, and visit a variety of exhibitors that offer guide/charter services, equipment, merchandise, and more.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff hosted an informational booth at the Tri-Cities Sportsmen’s Show, the Seattle Boat Show, the Washington Sportsmen’s Show in Puyallup, the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show in Portland, OR, and the Central Washington Sportsmen Show in Yakima. Several WDFW staff also held seminars about popular topics, including turkey hunting techniques, the pikeminnow sport reward fishery program, Puget Sound fishing opportunities, and how to become a hunting mentor.
One more sports show is on the horizon, the Big Horn Show in Spokane happening March 16–19. We encourage you to stop by the WDFW booth to talk with staff and learn more about local fishing, hunting, and outdoor recreation opportunities.
As we move into spring, we will continue to ramp up our involvement in local communities to talk with people about responsible wildlife viewing and outdoor recreation, and how people can create wildlife habitat at home. Already this year, we’ve attended a family STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) event at Yakima Valley College, Bird Fest in Burien, Storming the Sound in Anacortes, the Spokane Great Outdoors & Bike Expo, and the Environmental and Science Literacy Student Summit in Tumwater.
You can find WDFW staff at other community events coming up, including the Long Beach Razor Clam Festival (April 8–9), the Home and Garden Show in Chehalis (April 14–15), the Benton County Salmon Summit (April 17–18), and the Washington Coast Cleanup on Earth Day (April 22). Check out our events calendar for more information.
Another popular spring activity coming soon is our youth fishing events. We are preparing rods and tackle now and will announce dates soon on the WDFW website. These are great family events that introduce young people to fishing in a fun way that ensures success. Families are sure to go home with big smiles, great table fare, and wonderful memories, as well as information on how to continue fishing throughout the year.
Whether it’s attending a community festival, family fishing event, or visiting a WDFW wildlife area, we hope you find a way to connect with nature wherever you are. We look forward to seeing you enjoying a #LifeOutdoors in 2023!
Kelly Susewind, Director
Op-Ed: Support funding for Washington’s diverse wildlife
Fish and Wildlife Commission Chair Barbara Baker and I published an opinion editorial in the Feb. 22 edition of The Seattle Times. As we lose wild lands, restoration of habitat is demanding more of our time and resources. We need new landscape approaches, such as the recent shrubsteppe recovery program and projects like the wildlife crossings along I-90 that connect fragmented habitat, allowing wild animals to move freely. We need to conserve intact habitat and increase the rate of restoration of altered landscapes. We submitted our highest priority for new funding — a $47.6 million request to conserve biodiversity. We now ask the Legislature and the public to support this funding so WDFW can advance our efforts to protect wildlife and wild places for all Washingtonians.
WDFW seeks public input on draft co-manager hatchery policy
WDFW is seeking public comment on a draft policy to guide management of hatcheries in cooperation with tribal co-managers. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted an updated Anadromous Salmon and Steelhead Hatchery Policy in April 2021. As part of that policy, the Commission instructed WDFW “to begin development of a joint policy agreement on salmon and steelhead hatchery programs with tribal co-managers,” which would supplement and supersede the existing Commission policy when appropriate. After more than a year of collaborative work with technical staff under the direction of a subset of commissioners and tribal policymakers, a final draft policy was developed in November 2022 and presented to the full Commission in December 2022 and January 2023. Learn more in our news release.
Restoring Puget Sound estuaries and working to recover Stillaguamish Chinook
Juvenile Chinook salmon and other fish species depend on Puget Sound estuaries for shelter and food before heading out into more open waters. These rich feeding and rearing grounds allow fish to grow bigger, so they have a better chance of survival. Widespread reduction of estuary habitat during the last century has contributed significantly to salmon declines. To recover Chinook, we need to restore more of our region’s estuaries. Along with Native American tribes and many other partners, WDFW is working to restore estuary habitats on lands we manage. A focus area for this work has been the Skagit, Stillaguamish, and Snohomish River deltas, which together make up the Whidbey Basin. Learn more in our new blog post. We also recently published a 10-minute video, Into the Stillaguamish, and webpage highlighting effort to advance habitat restoration and Chinook recovery in the Stillaguamish River.
Tips for wildlife viewing in Washington and ethical photography
Wildlife can be found anywhere in Washington. From backyard chickadees to the orcas of the Salish Sea, our state has a spectacular array of animal life to witness. In January we published a new Wildlife Viewing webpage to provide tips on places to go, responsible viewing practices, and more. A few winter and spring favorites include birding at WDFW Wildlife Areas, watching herds of elk at Oak Creek near Yakima, or spotting for gray and humpback whale spouts from the San Juans, Whidbey Island, and Strait of Juan de Fuca. We also published a blog on ethical wildlife photography. Wildlife photography is a growing hobby that is accessible to many. From the largest lenses to the phone in your pocket, wildlife photography is as complicated or simple as you want to make it. Whether someone is a novice or a professional, ethical practices should be used when documenting wildlife, respecting the animals as well as fellow visitors to our public lands and waters. The blog offers resources for photographers to brush up on their skills so they can capture that perfect (and ethical) shot.
WDFW report calls for science-based approaches for climate-resilient water supply
A new report recently released by WDFW calls for new strategies and policy tools to address consequences of increasing human demand for water and the effects of climate change on Washington’s rivers and streams. The paper articulates the need to better predict future shifts in precipitation and the effect on streamflow, understand how groundwater and surface-water interact, and estimate how climate change and other stressors will affect salmon survival and water availability for people across the state. Climate change is projected to result in widespread increases in winter streamflow, declines in summer streamflow, and increasing stream temperatures that will degrade habitat for many native aquatic species, especially cold water-adapted fish like salmon. Additionally, continued human population pressures will increase land-use change and habitat loss with unintended negative consequences for fish and wildlife.
Surplus adult hatchery steelhead planted in coastal lakes open to fishing
Surplus adult hatchery steelhead are providing a bonus opportunity for recreational anglers to catch fish in several year-round lakes along the coast and southwest Washington. WDFW hatchery staff have been hard at work stocking hundreds of these high-quality steelhead — averaging around 8 pounds — into Black, Cases, Snag and Western lakes in Pacific County; Kress Lake in Cowlitz County; Horseshoe Lake in Cowlitz County; and Fort Borst Park Pond, Inez (Vance Creek Pond 2) and Lake Sylvia. This is part of an ongoing effort to offer a chance to catch surplus hatchery steelhead without impacts on wild fish. Learn more in this blog post and for fish plants, go to the WDFW trout stocking webpage. For more information on what comes next for coastal steelhead fisheries, see our January blog post.
Submit your comments on 2023–2024 hunting regulations
Make your voice heard! We are currently accepting written public comments on proposed rule changes to 2023–2024 hunting season regulations. Proposals in this round of rulemaking include those related to landowner hunting permits, deer and elk special permits; hunting seasons, areas, and permit quotas for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat; and hunting seasons and regulations for migratory gamebirds. We encourage everyone interested in the upcoming hunting seasons — regardless of race, color, sex, age, national origin, language proficiency, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, status as a veteran, or basis of disability — to review the proposed changes and send us your feedback by the March 27 deadline. See our news release or visit the WDFW website for more information and to provide comments.
Monitoring the health of Washington’s bighorn sheep herds
Surveys of bighorn sheep in various areas across the state took place in January and into early February this year. This recent video explains how capturing and collaring work and why we do this work. In Central Washington’s Yakima Canyon, WDFW staff and volunteers worked to catch and collar bighorn sheep as part of a new study to monitor their health following past outbreaks of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, the infection that triggers pneumonia in wild sheep herds, which can decimate bighorn populations. In January, WDFW issued new rules prohibiting domestic sheep and goats in select areas of WDFW-managed lands to protect bighorn sheep. The adopted rule culminates a months-long process to develop and refine the rule, including a public comment period, public hearing, and a state environmental review.
Washington Shrubsteppe Restoration and Resiliency Initiative fire recovery resources
Following historic fires in 2020 that burned 600,000 acres of shrubsteppe habitat in Washington, the Washington State Legislature made new funding available to benefit wildlife by restoring shrubsteppe habitat, implementing actions to help at-risk species, and supporting working lands in eastern Washington. The Washington Shrubsteppe Restoration and Resiliency Initiative (WSRRI) coordinates and delivers resources and services at a landscape scale to promote resilience for wildlife and communities. The initiative is the first large-scale concerted effort by Washington state to channel resources immediately after wildfire to impacted shrubsteppe habitat. The initiative is now seeking proposals to benefit wildlife affected by wildfire on private, tribal, and public lands in eastern Washington. Learn more in our news release.
Washington’s waterfowl habitat improvement projects showing great results
Washington boasts world-class waterfowl habitat and some of the best duck and goose hunting in North America, from the pothole lakes of the Columbia Basin to the valleys and bayfronts of Puget Sound, to coastal estuaries and the entire Columbia River. Many waterfowling areas continue to get even better thanks in part to hunters who give back to the cause through the federal and state Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp programs; commonly known as “Duck Stamps”. This blog post details some of the projects that have been funded by Duck Stamp funds and how other species outside of waterfowl have benefitted as well.
Innovative grassroots study helps remove mystery surrounding sea-run cutthroat trout
A new study by fishing community volunteers, a local conservation group and the WDFW on sea-run cutthroat trout was recently released, shedding new light about this fish that inhabits coastal and inner-marine waterways including Puget Sound and Hood Canal. Learn more in our blog post. Coastal cutthroat trout are popular quarry for anglers in both nearshore marine waters and coastal streams from California to Alaska. The one-year study titled “Technology-Based Solutions Provide the First Estimate of Sea Lice Infections for Wild Coastal Cutthroat Trout” on the American Fisheries Society website was a grassroots effort that received financial backing and on-the-water support from volunteers in the fishing community and local conservation groups, particularly the Coastal Cutthroat Coalition.
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