Director’s Bulletin | January/February 2022

It feels like 2022 launched like a rocket in terms of our work here at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. With the convening of the legislative session, preparing and planning for North of Falcon and Columbia River salmon season negotiations, and opening public comment for rule-making for the 2022–23 hunting seasons and on a draft 10-year outdoor recreation strategy for Department managed lands, there hasn’t been much “down time,” to say the least.

I want to take a little bit of time to share my perspectives on a critically important word that I believe serves as the foundation of all that we do. That word is “conservation.”

Take a look at RCW 77.04.012 if you want to read our mandate in full. We often distill it down to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife, and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities. If I were to refine it even further, I’d use just one word: conservation.

We further drill down into conservation through the agency’s internal Conservation Policy, Policy 5004, where we define “conservation” as “The protection, preservation, management, or restoration of natural environments and the ecological communities that inhabit them. This includes the management of human use for public benefit, and sustainable social and economic needs.” The policy acknowledges that people are part of the ecosystem.

There are incredibly diverse values and expectations around the management of fish, wildlife, and habitats within the approximately 8 million Washingtonians that we serve. Thankfully, public surveys indicate there is strong support for fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation.

A common denominator that I hear among those that identify themselves as anglers, hunters, watchable wildlife enthusiasts, commercial fishers, and outdoor recreationists is that fish and wildlife conservation is important, it contributes to their quality of life, and we need to ensure we have sustainable populations for the benefit of future generations.

While there are healthy debates regarding “how” to go about conserving fish and wildlife, the “why” is broadly shared among all of us that care about nature — that fish and wildlife deserve to be conserved and are inextricably tied to our quality of life here in Washington state.

And the more people we have engaging in the conversation about the future of fish, wildlife, and habitat, the better off we’ll all be.

Please continue reading about some of the ways we’re conserving fish and wildlife in this edition of our Bulletin.

Kelly Susewind
WDFW Director

Draft 10-Year Strategy for Recreation on WDFW-Managed Lands released for public feedback

After years of work by WDFW staff and collaboration with tribes and partner agencies as well as hunting, fishing, conservation, and recreation groups, on Jan. 24 we released a draft 10-year recreation strategy for WDFW-managed lands. Public input on the draft strategy, which is available in English and Spanish, is welcome through 5 p.m. on Feb. 28 via WDFW’s online comment portal. WDFW manages over 1 million acres of land and more than 450 water access areas offering unique opportunities for exploration and recreation. This new strategy reflects the Department’s commitments to welcoming all Washingtonians and visitors to public lands, supporting fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching uses as well as many other outdoor activities while protecting wildlife, habitat, cultural, and tribal resources. Prioritized near-term actions in the strategy include making WDFW-managed lands more welcoming, curtailing illegal activity, and increasing Department capacity for planning and managing recreation.

Celebrating Black History Month

Since 1976, every U.S. president has designated February as Black History Month to celebrate and learn about the history, contributions, and accomplishments of Black Americans. Diversity makes natural ecosystems more vibrant and resilient. The same is true of Washington’s conservation community. At WDFW, we’re committed to fostering an inclusive environment and believe science and conservation are best advanced by the leadership and contributions of people with widely diverse backgrounds, experiences, and identities, who reflect the communities they serve. During the month of February, we’re proud to highlight Washingtonians working to connect more People of Color with the outdoors and to share their stories of building community while enjoying nature.

European green crab increase warrants emergency actions

The European green crab (Carcinus maenas) is a globally damaging invasive species that poses a threat to Washington’s economic, environmental, and cultural resources. Gov. Inslee issued an emergency proclamation on Jan. 19 to address the exponential increase in green crab populations within the Lummi Nation’s Sea Pond and outer coast areas. WDFW’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Unit has determined that the $2.3 million appropriated by the 2021 State Legislature for green crab management in the current biennium is not sufficient to successfully control these exploding populations. WDFW is requesting $8,568,000 from the Legislature during the 2022 supplemental session to control increasing green crab populations and the danger they pose to Washington’s environment, economy, and human well-being.

WDFW seeks public comments on 2022–2023 hunting seasons

Through March 19, WDFW will accept public comments on proposed rule changes to hunting regulations. Most of the proposals address minor changes in big game special permit levels and hunting area descriptions since the Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the latest three-year hunting package in 2021. More substantial proposals include changes to the importation of animals to prevent chronic wasting disease — learn more on the Department’s YouTube channel. The Department also invites written comment on a proposed spring black bear special permit rule change through March 12. The Commission accepted a petition to initiate rule-making for a spring black bear special permit season. The proposed rule would establish spring black bear special hunting permits for a shortened 2022 season, beginning May 1 and ending June 15. The amendment also proposes modifications to the harvest and inspection procedures and makes it unlawful to kill a cub or a female with cubs.

Cougar Science Team reviews the science related to human-cougar interactions

Understanding the interactions between humans and cougars (Puma concolor) presents unique challenges for wildlife managers. Based on conversations with the Commission, WDFW formed a team to review the scientific literature on human-cougar interactions and assess the factors that increase or mitigate risk of human-cougar conflict. For the past 10 months WDFW staff and external scientists have been reviewing an extensive body of research to assess both the analytical and ecological merits of current literature, focusing on data and methods, to summarize the current state of knowledge about human-cougar interactions, and factors affecting these interactions. You can find the full report on WDFW’s website or read about it in this recent blog post.

Coastal Steelhead Advisory Group kicks off, low returns to the Skagit River

The first meeting of the 12-member Ad-hoc Coastal Steelhead Advisory Group was held on Feb.17. This new group will inform the development of a long-term management strategy for coastal steelhead as required by the Washington Legislature in the 2021–23 budget. That budget proviso will outline WDFW’s approach to managing steelhead fisheries for each river system of Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, and coastal Olympic Peninsula, as well ongoing wild steelhead recovery planning. The Department will submit the plan to the Legislature by the end of 2022. This ad-hoc advisory group is one component of extensive public engagement the Department has implemented regarding coastal steelhead conservation and fisheries management. In other steelhead news, WDFW biologists and tribal co-managers have forecasted that only 3,833 wild steelhead will return to the Skagit River and its tributaries in 2022. This means that popular fishing seasons will unfortunately not be held on the Skagit and Sauk rivers this year. Read more in this blog post.

Capturing and collaring Washington’s wolves

Wolves (Canis lupus) started making Washington their home again around 2008, after being extirpated from the state by the early 1900s. Since their return, WDFW has been capturing and collaring a sample of these animals to monitor their survival, reproduction, movements, and recovery. There are two methods WDFW use to catch wolves: ground-based trapping and aerial darting from a helicopter. Learn about collaring wolves in this new blog post. The annual wolf count is conducted in winter because wolf populations experience the least amount of natural fluctuation during this time, allowing for comparable year-to-year trends at a time of year when the wolf population is most stable. Washington’s annual wolf count will be published in early-spring 2022.

Tengu Blackmouth Derby celebrates Japanese-American community’s salmon fishing heritage

On Jan. 9, members of the Tengu Fishing Club gathered for what’s believed to be the longest-running fishing derby on the West Coast. The Tengu Blackmouth Derby was started by Japanese-Americans in November of 1937 with about 250 members, but was put on hold at the start of World War II. Once the war ended the derby resumed in 1946 as Japanese-Americans returned from internment camps across the West Coast, and has been ongoing in Seattle’s Elliott Bay — except for 2015 when the bay was closed to fishing and in 2020 due to COVID. WDFW Public Affairs staffers were glad to be in attendance this year to chat with local anglers and support the venerable event. Read about Tengu and mooching for winter Chinook in their blog. As announced in a news release and rule change, fishing for salmon will re-open Feb. 24 through March 31 in the Seattle/Bremerton area (Marine Area 10) and will be allowed on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only.

North of Falcon public meetings begin in March

Each year state, federal, and tribal fishery managers gather to plan the Northwest’s recreational and commercial salmon fisheries. This salmon season-setting process is known as North of Falcon, which refers to Oregon’s Cape Falcon, the southern border of active management for Washington salmon stocks. Salmon migrate and are intercepted by fisheries from California up to Alaska. The North of Falcon process coincides with meetings of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the federal authority responsible for setting ocean salmon seasons 3 to 200 miles off the Pacific coast. North of Falcon also functions in tandem with the Pacific Salmon Commission’s Pacific Salmon Treaty agreements, which guide the conservation and management of salmon fisheries for the U.S. and Canada. WDFW and tribal governments have been developing forecasts of this year’s salmon runs, and North of Falcon public meetings will begin in early March. Learn more on this webpage.



The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.