January/February 2020 Director’s Bulletin
We’re more than two-thirds of the way through the short, 60-day legislative session. While every session is critical, we have a lot riding on our supplemental budget requests for stable and ongoing funding.
The House and Senate have both released their supplemental budget proposals earlier this week. Overall, I’m pleased to report that both chambers have recognized our need and have elected to invest in WDFW. Both proposals primarily rely on State General Fund and neither chamber proposed a recreational license fee increase to balance our budget. There are some significant differences between the two proposals, in particular, how each proposals’ appropriations would ‘carry forward’ into the next biennium. We plan to continue to work hard in the remaining weeks of session to ensure that there is adequate funding for the remainder of this biennium, and that ongoing costs approved by the legislature in this biennium are also funded next biennium.
We sincerely appreciate the many partners that have stood up and communicated the real challenges that arise from underfunding fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation. I am both humbled and inspired by the partnerships and efforts these leaders make on behalf of fish and wildlife conservation.
The new decade is off to a promising start, and I’m excited to build on this momentum.
Kelly Susewind, Director
Conservation Partnership: Olympia oyster restoration
The Olympia oyster is Washington’s only native oyster. This species once occurred in much greater abundance in intertidal locations throughout Puget Sound. Commercial exploitation from 1850 to the early 1900s resulted in near total loss of large native oyster beds in Washington, both from direct harvest and conversion of tidelands to other uses. Now WDFW, with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, Northwest Straits Initiative and its Marine Resource Committees, and the Coastal Conservation Association, as well as other government agencies, treaty tribes, shellfish growers, private tideland owners, and volunteers are working to bring this species back. The potential benefits extend beyond oysters to other species and coastal habitats generally. Oyster beds provide habitat for resident anemones, crabs, and wide diversity of small marine life — some of which are prey for other, larger species that also use oyster habitat for foraging and shelter. Olympia oysters can filter between 9 and 12 quarts of water daily, with additional beneficial effects to underwater habitats. Work with Puget Sound Restoration Fund and their conservation hatchery includes efforts to manage genetic and disease risks and advance efforts to increase abundance of the species in the sound.
Celebrating Washington’s hunting and public lands
Each year, WDFW sponsors a photo contest to select a cover for the upcoming big game pamphlet. This year’s theme is ‘Hunting on Washington’s Public Lands’.
Providing sustainable wildlife recreation is a major part of our mission and we want to celebrate all that our public lands have to offer. From steep, rocky slopes to old growth forests and wetlands, if you’re looking for a unique outdoor experience, you can find it in Washington.
If you want to participate in the contest, please send in your photos highlighting how you take advantage of the hunting opportunities provided by Washington’s public lands, along with a short paragraph describing the image. Submissions can be uploaded here.
Even if you are not selected as the winner, we may feature your photo on our social media or website. The cutoff date for submissions is March 1, 2020. The photo (left) by Nate Corley showcases the tale of his brother, a third-generation user of the Gloyd Seeps Wildlife Area, who is continuing the tradition by teaching his daughter to hunt.
Commercial crabbers overcome difficult conditions to provide locally sourced food
WDFW monitors crab populations to ensure sustainable, ecologically resilient resources.
Washington’s non-tribal commercial crab fleet of 270 are significant contributors to a diverse Washington workforce. They and tribal fishers produce nearly $83 million in annual revenue per year out of Washington’s coastal ports, cities and towns.
Crab fishers brave difficult conditions to put delicious and healthy seafood on the table of countless families across Washington. making a living in one of the toughest jobs there is in terms of physical safety, financial security and environmental challenges. When you buy crab from Washington, you not only get to enjoy some tasty seafood, but also support the state’s cultural and economic vibrancy.
Partnership with Mobius Science Center
WDFW’s partnership with the Mobius Science Center in Spokane continues through April with a series of activities and presentations. In January, WDFW’s Mike Atamian talked about sage grouse and their interesting mating ritual. On Feb. 22, Eastern Regional Director Steve Pozzanghera taught children and their families about common backyard mammals and how to set up a scent station to see what animals visit yards when we’re not looking. Upcoming WDFW events can be found on the center’s calendar.
WDFW, Forterra and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation protect land for wildlife and people
Working closely with Forterra and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, WDFW recently finalized the second and final purchase of some 900 acres of land near Yakima in the foothills of the eastern Cascades. WDFW will manage the new property as an addition to the Cowiche Unit of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area.
This land purchase permanently protects habitat. “This property is an important link to surrounding state, federal, and private conservation lands,” said Mike Livingston, WDFW’s south central regional director. “With the help of our partners RMEF and Forterra, we’re able to permanently protect the area where up to 2,000 Rocky Mountain elk migrate between their summer and winter ranges, and where elk calves are born each year.”
Beyond elk, the site serves as key habitat and a migration corridor for an astonishing array of species, including mule deer, neotropical birds, raptors, bats, and more than 70 butterfly species. The expanded Cowiche Unit will also conserve more than seven miles of Cowiche Creek, an important spawning and rearing habitat for bull trout, coho, and chinook salmon.
Recreational opportunities are abundant on the new property, and include hunting, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, and bird watching. The low-elevation and proximity to Yakima make it an ideal destination for local outdoor recreationists and visitors.
New Digital Conversations Expand Public Communications Options
We hosted online digital open houses from seven locations throughout the state in 2019. The events, using live-streaming technology and social media, provided another opportunity for the public to ask questions and gain information about department policies and direction.
Online webinars took place in the early evening. Participants were encouraged to send in questions for department panels. In total, nearly 1,200 people viewed the events this past year, with up to 40 questions answered in some events.
The digital open houses provided a chance to hear from those who aren’t always able to attend our in-person events and meetings. Getting this feedback is incredibly helpful, and it also allows us to share news about the department in every region of the state.
Topics included briefings on the legislative session and department budget challenges, current conservation efforts, partner collaborations, efforts to enhance public service, and the department’s work to develop a strategic plan.