Director’s Bulletin September/October 2020
It’s Fall — one of my favorite times to leave the office behind and head outdoors. I grew up hunting Roosevelt elk, gathering razor clams and fishing for salmon near my childhood home in Grays Harbor County. Taking time to enjoy nature is why we live here in Washington!
With hunting seasons, fall colors, abundant razor clamming, and several extended fishing seasons, I hope you find yourself enjoying opportunities to explore the natural bounty of our state. As we transition from a challenging summer to an active autumn, and as I enter my third year as WDFW’s Director, I find myself grateful for silver linings.
While our worlds changed with Stay Home/Stay Healthy orders and summer plans were altered, more people are getting out now and enjoying their “backyards.” Many residents learned the value of their public lands and water access sites over recent months as a way to pursue a ‘stay-cation.’ As exemplified by a recent virtual panel discussion on public lands with Forterra and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, there is growing awareness for how investments in lands and habitat have the ability to satisfy diverse needs and values.
While the inability to meet in person has posed challenges, we are adapting and embracing new technologies to ensure that critical efforts continue to move us forward and beyond COVID-19. Whether virtual Commission meetings, advisory group meetings over Zoom, or web-based forms to solicit and collect feedback, we encourage you to stay engaged and provide your perspective on the conservation and management of Washington’s fish and wildlife. In that regard, we recently recognized exceptional engagement with our Agency’s Citizen Awards. Thank you to all our volunteers who give their time and expertise to support our mission.
Should you and I meet while enjoying the fall weather at the beach or on a trail, I hope to join you in a physically distanced conversation, acknowledging our stark realities, alongside the glimmers of progress that continue to grow brighter as we enjoy Washington’s outdoors.
Commission approves 25-Year WDFW Strategic Plan
The Commission has approved a 25-Year Strategic Plan to help the Department shift the trajectory of its work by implementing strategies and action items to:
- Proactively address conservation challenges,
- Engage communities through recreation and stewardship,
- Deliver science that informs Washington’s most pressing fish and wildlife questions, and
- Move WDFW toward operational and environmental excellence.
The effort began in 2019 under the direction of the Fish and Wildlife Commission and WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. Staff now will begin efforts to implement the action items associated with the plan, including reporting back to the public.
Congratulations Citizen Award Recipients
Each year we recognize the inspiring commitment of organizations, individual volunteers, landowners, and educators who help advance our core values of conservation and public service. The task of choosing standouts from the many nominations we receive was particularly daunting this year. Please visit WDFW’s Medium page for more on the Organization of the year, Ducks Unlimited, Volunteers of the year, Rachel Voss and Jim Terry, Landowners of the year, Mark and Gary Bailey, and our Terry Hoffer Memorial Firearm Safety Award recipient, Marty Kotzke.
Wildfires have significant impact on public lands, habitat
Three wildlife area units burned completely in September’s wildfires across Eastern Washington — Chester Butte, Dormaier, and Swanson Lakes — as did the Jameson Lake water access area. In addition, the wildfires burned portions of the West Foster Creek Unit, Bridgeport Unit, Wells Wildlife Area, Wenas Wildlife Area, and Oak Creek Wildlife Area. While we’re still assessing the damage, we believe that about 90,000 acres of WDFW-managed lands burned in the recent wildfires, causing concerns for Greater Sage-grouse and other species. Before heading out, be sure to visit our Washington wildfire information page to find out if there are resulting restrictions. And, to learn how to help wildlife after wildfires, read our recent blog post.
Virtual open houses invite Q&A with Director Susewind and Regional Directors on local issues
WDFW Director Kelly Susewind and South-Central Regional Director Mike Livingston (image to left) recently hosted an online discussion highlighting the vital role of public lands for people and wildlife in Yakima, Kittitas, Franklin, and Benton counties. The duo was joined by representatives from two non-profit organizations: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Senior Lands Manager, Bill Richardson and Director of Lands, Jennifer Doherty, plus Forterra’s Lands Manager Collette MacLean and President & CEO, Michelle Connor. Together, they highlighted a Cowiche Watershed partnership to support recreation and mule deer, elk, neotropical birds, raptors, bats, and more than 70 butterfly species.
Director Susewind will join Southwest Regional Director Kessina Lee on Oct. 27 and North Puget Sound Regional Director Brendan Brokes on Nov. 12, as well as Coastal Region Director Larry Phillips in mid-November. Watch our website calendar and social media over the coming month for details on these virtual open houses.
Wild Washington lessons for educators; parents
To provide support for learners in Washington during COVID-19, WDFW is offering a new service for the 2020–21 school year: wildlife-themed lessons for elementary, middle school, and high school students. Our lessons will incorporate disciplines ranging from math and science to art and literature aligned with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s state and national environmental and sustainability learning standards. All our lessons will have modifications embedded for distance learning but are also developed for teachers to use when Washington students return to their classrooms. Look for new lessons each week on our website. Visit our blog to learn more.
Abundant razor clams provide ‘digging while distancing’ opportunities
There are still dozens of razor clam digs tentatively scheduled on 58 miles of coastal beaches, and our agency wants you to get out and have fun while also taking steps to thoroughly prepare, follow local health guidelines, and avoid risks. Health agencies are asking people to stay home if sick, practice social distancing, mask up, bring along personal protective equipment, pack out your belongings and garbage, purchase licenses ahead of the trip, bring non-cash payment methods to reduce contact, and follow local ordinances and guidelines. This year clams are particularly abundant and WDFW and coastal communities are working together to provide many options for harvesting your clams while staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. For a complete schedule, please visit our razor clam webpage.
Celebrate Seafood this October
The Department has worked with Governor Jay Inslee to proclaim October as Seafood Month. Throughout the month, WDFW, Washington Sea Grant, and the Washington State Department of Agriculture are showcasing community efforts to connect Washington consumers to local Washington seafood. Partners will share stories and videos featuring recipes, Washington’s maritime past, commercial fishermen and women, WDFW’s management role, and ways to access these sustainable and healthy sources of protein. Watch for features spanning from Westport and the Olympic Peninsula to Seattle, the San Juan Islands and Bellingham. Learn more at wdfw.wa.gov/LocalWASeafood.