Director’s Bulletin | July/August 2022
I love wild places. Nothing recharges me after a long week like walking through the woods, launching my skiff to explore a new piece of water, feeling the salt air stick to my skin, or simply watching the sun begin, or end, the day. My guess is that if you’re reading this message, you share my passion for the outdoors and spending your time connecting with nature.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) uses a variety of tools to conserve habitat and wild places, including working with local governments on land use zoning and critical area ordinances, influencing and delivering Farm Bill programs, and reviewing and commenting on other public land management plans.
On behalf of Washingtonians, WDFW is proud to manage more than a million wild acres for the benefit of fish and wildlife, and residents and visitors, alike.
This legacy began in 1939 with the acquisition of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in north-central Washington — home to bighorns, moose, trout, and family-friendly trails in a stunning valley carved by Ice Age floods. Holdings now include 33 wildlife areas, 450 water access areas, and 360 boat launches, which provide access to 220 lakes, 44 rivers, coastal bays and inland waterways including Puget Sound.
Using federal grants, state appropriations, hunting and fishing license revenue, and hydropower mitigation dollars, WDFW has developed a strategic portfolio of public lands that sustain wildlife and provide recreational access for approximately 29 million visitor days each year. Using the best available science, staff from across WDFW’s programs work with tribal co-managers and partners to protect land and water for wildlife and people.
WDFW thoroughly assesses lands for acquisition by evaluating the risk of development, examining a parcel’s importance to the broader fish and wildlife landscape — including habitat linkages and connections to other accessible lands — and weighing if WDFW is the appropriate owner or if a different conservation owner or other habitat conservation tools might be more appropriate.
If WDFW staff decide to pursue acquisition, we engage the public to evaluate the fit, pursue funding, and conduct a public hearing with the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, who is ultimately responsible for approving the acquisition.
Once we acquire new lands, our long-term commitment begins with the development of a Wildlife Area Plan. Our planners engage staff across programs as well as the local community and partner groups through our Wildlife Area Advisory Committees to define conservation and recreation priorities.
It takes a lot of work to operate and maintain WDFW-managed lands. We battle invasive weeds, conduct prescribed burns, and maintain hundreds of docks and boat launches. The weekly, monthly, and seasonal rhythms of maintenance keep these lands functioning for wildlife conservation and public recreation. Restoration projects large and small — such as work underway at Leque Island — improve conditions for fish and wildlife while improving access and facilities.
WDFW actively manages lands in our care because they offer outsized benefits for the natural heritage that supports our state’s quality of life. They are places for people and wildlife to thrive. We are excited to continue to provide hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing opportunities on WDFW-managed lands, as well as welcoming diverse recreationists to visit and appreciate the lands we steward on their behalf.
We just completed a 10-year recreation strategy for WDFW-managed lands that will guide our near- and long-term actions for promoting recreation, conserving natural and cultural resources as it relates to recreational impacts, monitoring habitat and recreational use, and prioritizing stewardship funding. We continue working with local communities to provide working lands through sustainable stewardship.
Fish and wildlife habitat doesn’t just “manage itself;” it takes active management to sustain basic functioning and new investments to improve ecological health and recreational experiences. Unfortunately, there is a chronic gap in funding for land stewardship and operating and maintaining infrastructure, with additional funds needed to enhance conservation and recreation values. A recent welcome investment is the Legislature appropriating funding for newly acquired lands. This past session the Legislature also appropriated much-needed funding to address a growing backlog of operating and maintenance needs. This infusion increased the baseline budget for the management of WDFW lands by 20% and I’m excited to see the benefits accrue on the ground.
When Washingtonians think of our wild “crown jewels,” many will point to Mount Rainier, the North Cascades, or the Olympic Rainforest. I humbly submit that a shrubsteppe sunrise over the Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area, the thunder of thousands of snow geese in flight at the Skagit Wildlife Area, the splash of brawny Chinook returning to Johns River Wildlife Area, the quiet serenity and earthy scents in the old growth forests on the Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area, and the bugle of elk from the rimrock canyons of Chief Joseph Wildlife Area are among the Evergreen State jewels.
Kelly Susewind, Director
WDFW renews investment in Communications and Public Engagement
Engagement with Washingtonians including hunters, fishers, and other conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts, the news media, and various partners is a top priority for WDFW. Quality communications are critical for our work, the species and opportunities we manage, and our relations with the public and policymakers. This summer, we doubled down on our existing investments by establishing a new Communications and Public Engagement (CAPE) work unit, overseen by Nate Pamplin as Director of External Affairs. Supporting improved coordination and growing connections with the public — both online and in-person — this new work unit includes staff from Public Affairs (now called the Communications Division), Sales & Marketing, Hunter Education, Watchable Wildlife, volunteer and event coordination, community outreach, and social sciences. As part of the Director’s Office, this team is charged with developing a cohesive approach for how we engage and communicate with the public, including integrating social science into our fish and wildlife conservation mission. The new structure incorporates extensive input from staff and independent consultants and aligns with best practices from other agencies. CAPE looks forward to working with you!
National Hunting and Fishing Day is on September 24
Since 1972, National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD) is celebrated on the fourth Saturday of September to recognize generations of sports people for their contributions to the conservation of our nation’s rich sporting heritage and natural resources. One of the core goals of NHFD is to recruit new hunters and anglers by increasing awareness of the connections between conservation and fishing/hunting. This year, WDFW will host an online celebration using Instagram, YouTube, and blog posts to showcase work of WDFW and partners to foster ethical hunting and fishing, and to promote diverse hunting and fishing opportunities in Washington for new hunters, anglers, and shellfish harvesters.
10-year strategy for managing recreation on WDFW-managed lands
The new strategy was signed and officially adopted by the Department last month. This work positions WDFW to be proactive and visionary in how we manage recreation on WDFW Wildlife Areas and other lands consistent with our conservation mission and the integrated and inclusive approach laid out in our 25-Year Strategic Plan. As underscored in a new study by state agencies and Earth Economics, WDFW-managed lands provide recreation opportunities for the public in the context of our commitment to conservation of natural, cultural and tribal resources. We’re best known for and remain deeply committed to hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing. We also welcome other diverse activities including boating, hiking, biking, climbing, and motorized recreation. These uses have dramatically increased in recent years, necessitating increased planning and investment in their management to protect precious habitat and resources, continue offering quality hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities, and welcome people with diverse backgrounds to enjoy the lands we manage on their behalf.
Why can’t more black bears be relocated following conflicts?
Recent incidents involving black bears have resulted in questions about bear conflict management. We take your concerns seriously. Decisions to lethally remove wildlife are never easy and are typically made through close coordination between WDFW biologists, wildlife conflict specialists, law enforcement officers, and other experts. Learn more in this blog post. Unfortunately, once bears know about a non-natural food source or are fed by humans, they keep coming back to that place. These bears can lose their fear of people, creating a threat of injury to humans. In certain instances, WDFW may capture and relocate younger bears taking advantage of human-provided food sources. The Department may use Karelian bear dogs and other methods of hazing to discourage further human interactions. However, if an adult bear is habituated to non-natural food sources, relocation is less successful and therefore may not be appropriate.
In-season salmon management and how to choose a guide/charter
With salmon fisheries in full swing from Puget Sound to the Washington Coast and Columbia River, we’ve been getting questions from anglers about in-season management for “mixed-stock” and “terminal area” fisheries, which we worked to answer in a blog post. We know Washington anglers look forward to salmon seasons each year, with many planning trips months in advance. WDFW is committed to providing sustainable fishing opportunities balanced with salmon conservation needs, and we are continually working to improve fisheries management in the interest of salmon, fishermen and women, tribes, and all Washingtonians. Interested in fishing with a guide or charter? We also recently published a blog post with tips for securing a memorable guided experience. Salmon fishing not your thing? Try yellow perch, which are abundant in lakes across the state.
Head to myWDFW.com for your info on hunting, angling, and more
WDFW has rolled out a promotional website for all things hunting, angling, foraging, recreating, and more. At myWDFW.com, you’ll find informative how-to articles on the season’s major fishing and hunting opportunities, as well as a portal to online license sales and a regular update on WDFW’s latest Life Outdoors articles. Each quarter, new fishing and hunting highlights are posted to help you get ready and take part in Washington’s current and upcoming opportunities. Agency staff cover topics ranging from shellfish gathering and turkey hunting to the Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery Program and from big-game scouting and hunting throughout the year to trout fishing with the whole family. Dedicated to current agency promotions, outdoor recreation information, and educational content, myWDFW.com preps you to meet with success in the field and on the water. And don’t forget about our monthly Weekender Report, too.
Clean, Drain, and Dry units coming to Columbia River sites
WDFW has long been working with the Washington Invasive Species Council (WISC) and many other groups to keep Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) like zebra mussels, New Zealand mud snails, and other invasives from both getting into our state’s waters and spreading from one water body to another. The latest tool in this effort is something called a CD3 unit: Clean, Drain, Dry, and Dispose. As part of an increased effort to fight AIS, one was recently installed at the Northup Boat Launch at Steamboat Rock State Park on Banks Lake in Grant County; one of the state’s most popular parks — with more units on the way for other areas of the Columbia Basin, including Kettle Falls marina. Read more in our blog post, and get tips on preventing the spread of AIS at stopaquatichitchhikers.org.
Leaping back into the wild: Northern leopard frogs
Hundreds of endangered northern leopard frogs leapt back into the wild at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in Grant County this month. Read more in our news release and recent media coverage. The releases are made possible by a partnership of the WDFW, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Oregon Zoo, Washington State University (WSU), and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. The species has been listed as endangered in Washington since 1999, and with only one known wild population remaining in the wild in the state, there is still a long path to recovery for the frogs. Frogs are often overlooked for their significant contributions to the environment, a fact the agencies and their partners are working to change.
Applications open for second round of relief funding to commercial fishing, shellfish, charter, and seafood industry members
Eligible commercial fishing, shellfish, charter, and seafood sector industry members who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can now apply with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission for a second round of federal assistance relief funding totaling $40 million. This is part of $300 million in federal funding the U.S. Congress approved in Dec. 2020. It follows an initial $300 million appropriation from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in summer of 2020. The two rounds total $600 million in federal relief funding, of which Washington and Alaska received $90 million each, the highest allotment across the country. New and returning applicants can find more information, full eligibility details and application materials and instructions at relief.psmfc.org. Applications are open through Oct. 14, 2022.
Pack territories: A wolf’s “neighborhood” and how they use it.
Wolf packs have a “territory” that they travel around and maintain. Wolf territories can have den sites where they birth and raise their young and rendezvous sites where young pups play. What dictates other features of a territory, such as size, is that it must be large enough to have enough prey to support the nutritional needs of a pack but small enough be able to defend the boundary from other packs. By studying and understanding the home ranges of wolf packs in Washington, WDFW can estimate progress toward reaching wolf recovery objectives, partner with landowners to conserve and manage habitat in a way that continues to be beneficial for wolves and ungulates, and predict distribution to mitigate wolf-livestock conflicts in the future. Learn more about wolf pack territories in Washington this recent blog post.