We are seeing fast-growing, avid participation in fishing, hunting, hiking, and outdoor recreation in recent weeks and months, perhaps driven by a lack of competing recreation options or an effort by people to seek peace and quiet in chaotic times.
Now, more than ever, all you do to support public lands and waters, fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching is critical to continue these sustainable and cherished pastimes. Whether volunteering, supporting wildlife and landscapes through donations to partners, or buying fishing and hunting licenses and state and federal access passes, your funding and time goes a long way to preserve these opportunities.
Unfortunately, budget news remains grim and there is a lot of uncertainty. State revenue forecasters project close to a $9 billion decline in state tax funding over the next three years. The Governor has requested that state agencies, including WDFW, respond to fill the gap by identifying millions of dollars of service reductions within our current budget, as well as in the next two-year budget cycle. We are currently identifying unwelcome reductions in service just when Washingtonians are relying on us most.
That said, we are committed to serving you and delivering on our mission. Every single day I hear from people and organizations that are adapting and rising to meet current challenges. We will too. We must.
It will be my privilege to stand together with you to conserve outdoor places, fish, and wildlife and to support Washington lifestyles and livelihoods associated with recreational and commercial fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation in the months ahead, and beyond.
Stay healthy, stay safe, and thank you,
Potential service reductions due to COVID-19 impacts to the state economy
Department staff are currently preparing the 2021–23 biennium operating budget. The Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to take action in late-August to approve the budget request to the Governor. The operating budget request can be separated into three broad categories:
New enhancements: This is a request for new funding to conduct new work next biennium. We’re requesting items such as monitoring and enforcing the transport of aquatic invasive species, increased monitoring of steelhead and other fisheries, increasing the capacity to partner with WA Conservation Corps crews to improve recreational facilities on WDFW lands and other habitat improvement projects, and improving our work to manage pinnipeds and recover Southern Resident Killer Whales.
Backfill for funding shortfalls: The Department has shortfalls in various accounts, independent of the economic impacts of the coronavirus. The Department is requesting the legislature back-fill these shortfalls with State General Fund so there is no loss of service.
Activities at risk include big game surveys and hunting access programs (due to shortfall in federal Pittman-Robertson funding), hatchery production and operations and maintenance (due to shortfall in federal Dingell-Johnson funding), conservation of non-game species (due to shortfall in a restricted account of revenue from personalized license plates), hatchery production on the Lower Columbia (due to shortfall in federal Mitchell Act funding), and the closure of the Elwha hatchery (due to a grant ending from the National Park Foundation).
WDFW’s contribution to $9B state government revenue shortfall: The economic impact of the coronavirus has hit the nation and state hard. Washington State is anticipating a $9B impact of reduced general tax receipts associated with the coronavirus. In response to this impact, the Governor’s Office directed cabinet agencies and requested non-cabinet agencies (like WDFW) to submit options for a 15% reduction in State General Fund appropriations on an on-going basis. We want to be clear, WDFW is not encouraging these reductions and we intend to advocate that these are not good areas to reduce due to the conservation and economic benefits derived from these investments. Nonetheless, WDFW has identified $23.5M of reductions in 2021–23 consistent with the request from the Governor’s Office. These include severe reductions to salmon and trout hatchery production, fisheries monitoring, land management, conservation work, volunteer grant capacity, warmwater gamefish management, and orca and global wildlife trafficking enforcement.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission has also approved advancing to the Governor’s office a request for $233 million in capital funds to support shovel-ready WDFW projects. The proposed projects would span from forest heath wildfire risk reduction work to hatchery and fish management improvements, to recreation site improvements, to fencing to reduce deer and elk damage to agricultural lands. Such projects could generate an estimated 2,500 private industry jobs across the state beginning July 2021.You can stay informed on these issues online via our website.
WDFW seeks public comments for 2021–2023 hunting seasons.
WDFW is seeking comments on proposed alternatives for 2021–23 hunting seasons and has scheduled several meetings in August and September to discuss proposals with the public. The hunting season proposals are posted on WDFW’s website for the public to provide comments. WDFW will accept public comments through Tuesday, September 15. WDFW has scheduled a series of virtual public meetings by topic to discuss the 2021–23 hunting season alternatives. Visit our recent news release for topics and schedules.
Slow, yet steady, turtle recovery
Washington state’s population of endangered western pond turtles will be bolstered when WDFW and Woodland Park Zoo release dozens of turtles to the wild at local protected sites in August. This follows on a recent release in the Columbia Gorge in partnership with The Oregon Zoo, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, and other partners. The turtles are a part of the collaborative Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project, a head start program initiated in 1991, and Washington’s longest-running species reintroduction project.
Each spring, WDFW biologists go in the field to attach transmitters to adult female western pond turtles and monitor them every few hours during the nesting season to locate nesting sites; the nests are protected from predators with wire exclosure cages. A portion of the eggs are collected in late summer and the hatchlings are given a head start on life under the care of Woodland Park Zoo and Oregon Zoo where they can grow in safety. Collaborative recovery efforts over the last 29 years have resulted in more than 2,300 turtles launching back into the wild with an extra leg up. As a result, self-sustaining populations now exist in Puget Sound and the Columbia River Gorge.
New water access for outdoor enthusiasts
Anglers, boaters, paddlers, swimmers, and wildlife watchers can enjoy new facilities at two popular water access areas in Thurston County. Thanks to grant funding provided by the Recreation and Conservation Office, WDFW recently completed major renovation projects to install new ADA-accessible boat ramps, restrooms, and parking areas at Long Lake and Lake Lawrence.
Coastal halibut open!
DFW recently announced opening of coastal halibut recreational fishing, which was previously delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it looks a bit different than a typical halibut season, WDFW is continuing to prioritize public safety and working with stakeholders and public health officials in offering seasons.
Visit our news release for the schedule in August and September. Tight lines and good luck!
Final round of translocating mountain goats from the Olympics to the Cascades
We and a broad coalition of partners have completed the fourth and final round of mountain goat translocations from the Olympics to the northern Cascade Mountains. Since September 2018, 325 mountain goats have been translocated to meet federal and state wildlife management goals. Nearly half of the population has been removed, while volunteers will soon begin assisting the park with lethal removal efforts this fall.
We’re partnering with the National Park Service and USDA Forest Service to re-establish and assist in connecting depleted populations of mountain goats in the Washington Cascades while also removing non-native goats from the Olympic Mountains. For more information about mountain goats in Washington State, see our website.
Online, Regional Director’s events coming
We are scheduling online,region-based director open houses this fall and winter. Please mark your calendar for 6:30 p.m. September 23 to spend time with WDFW Director Kelly Susewind and North Puget Sound Regional Director Brendan Brokes to talk about how we enforce Southern Resident Killer Whale protections, protect and restore estuary habitat, respond to invasive European green crabs, and more. Join us to ask your local fish and wildlife questions. Watch WDFW’s website calendar and social media for additional regionally based opportunities in coming weeks and months.
Furlough days and anticipated service hour reductions
Efforts to adjust for downward revenue forecasts and budget reductions include several upcoming days of WDFW employee furloughs. While public safety related needs will remain staffed, please expect most other Department services to be unavailable September 4, October 30, and November 25.