Preserving natural spaces for people and wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) manages over a million acres of land and more than 450 water access areas in Washington offering unique opportunities for exploration and recreation.

In January, WDFW shared a draft 10-Year Recreation Strategy for WDFW-managed Lands and encouraged feedback from people who enjoy all types of recreation. After a 49-day public comment period and two online public meetings, we are now working to incorporate public feedback and finalize the strategy for publication later this spring.

Watch recording of public meeting (Feb. 24, 2022).

The 10-Year Recreation Strategy for WDFW-managed Lands reflects the Department’s commitments to welcoming all Washingtonians and visitors to public lands while protecting wildlife, habitat, cultural, and tribal resources.

Balancing recreation and conservation on public lands

The purpose of the 10-Year Recreation Strategy for WDFW-managed Lands is to improve visitor access and nature-based recreation experiences, while increasing protections for natural, cultural, and tribal resources on WDFW-managed lands.

By actively managing lands, restoring habitats, and preserving wild places, the Department serves as stewards for Washington’s natural places, protecting the state’s land and water for its human and wildlife populations.

In addition to acquiring land for wildlife and their habitat, WDFW purchases lands to preserve Washington’s natural and cultural heritage, provide access for hunting, fishing, and wildlife-related recreation, and foster outdoor experiences and exploration throughout the state.

Visit WDFW’s website to plan a trip to a wildlife or water access area.

People enjoy a variety of recreation on WDFW-managed lands, including fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, hiking, horseback riding, photography, mountain biking, birding, water sports, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, target shooting, foraging, and more.

Public participation helps guide recreation strategy

We appreciate the individuals and organizations who took the time to provide comments on the draft strategy. Your input is valued and important.

Over the 49-day public comment period, we received nearly 600 individual comments on the draft strategy. We also received letters from the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Lummi Natural Resources Commission, Kittitas County Commissioners, Outdoor Alliance Washington, Backcountry Horsemen of Washington, Conservation Northwest, Black Hills Audubon Society, and Spokane Audubon Society.

During the public comment period, WDFW staff identified a couple of common questions. The following section summarizes those questions and our responses.

Why doesn’t this strategy focus more on hunting and fishing?

WDFW has a long history and ongoing commitment to managing and supporting hunting, trapping, fishing, and shellfish harvesting around the state.

The focus of this strategy is to broaden our planning and management focus to address other recreation activities popular on WDFW-managed lands. Better planning and management of all recreation, including hunting and fishing, will help keep habitat and species populations healthy and reduce conflicts among visitors.

The Department is also developing a statewide R3 (recruitment, retention, and reactivation) strategy to support hunters and anglers both on and off WDFW-managed lands. The 10-Year Recreation Strategy for WDFW-managed Lands includes a commitment to the implementation of the broader agency R3 strategy as it relates to WDFW-managed lands.

Why would the Department implement a “closed unless open” policy and how will it affect hunting, fishing, and other dispersed recreation?

Heavy use of undesignated roads and trails and camping in sensitive areas can damage vegetation, displace wildlife, alter hydrology, spread invasive species, and fragment habitats. Management of these activities will support healthy ecosystems important to all forms of nature-based recreation.

Dispersed camping will remain available now and into the foreseeable future. Areas already closed to camping will be designated closed in the Washington Administrative Code so you will “know before you go.” No additional areas will be closed without public input.

Activities including hunting, fishing, and nature viewing, as well as foraging, shed hunting, and other collecting, require opportunities to disperse across landscapes on and off designated roads and trails. The language of the strategy will be revised to reflect the Department’s commitment to allow dispersed use for these purposes. The language about dispersed camping also will be revised.

Dispersed recreation such as foraging, shed antler collecting, camping, and hunting are popular activities on WDFW-managed lands.

Does this strategy go far enough to address recreation impacts?

This strategy aims to strategically increase recreation management to address current and future impacts on natural and cultural resources as well as impacts on facilities such as roads, trails, and restrooms.

One of the near-term priorities identified in the draft strategy is to focus on data collection and develop a framework for measuring and monitoring impacts of outdoor recreation on natural and cultural resources, public facilities, and outdoor experiences.

WDFW wildlife and water access areas provide abundant recreation opportunities for people. As part of the 10-Year Recreation Strategy for WDFW-managed Lands, we will work to better measure and monitor impacts of outdoor recreation on natural and cultural resources, public facilities, and outdoor experiences.

How will the Department measure and address outdoor recreation impacts?

First, we need to better understand what recreational impacts are of greatest concern for conservation, Tribal and government partners, neighbors, and visitors. Then, we will collaborate with Tribes and state land managers to design and deploy an impact monitoring system across state-managed recreation lands that tracks changes to the environment associated with specific recreation facilities and activities. We will then determine how to best address impacts using a variety of direct and indirect management tools, monitor our progress in addressing impacts, and adapt our management accordingly.

Get involved

We welcome you to explore your fish and wildlife lands and waters, learn about our stewardship efforts, get engaged in planning and stewarding with us, and make memories at these magnificent places.

We welcome volunteers who want to assist in activities that benefit fish, wildlife, habitat, and public lands in Washington.

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

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

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.