Increased recreational access, a greater law enforcement presence, simpler fishing rules, protecting habitat and reaching out to the state’s diverse population are priorities for people who commented as part of the state’s Wild Future initiative.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife recently released a report summarizing public comments received as it engages the public on conservation and recreation priorities and the agency’s performance.
“Department staff across the state have been asking people who fish, hunt and play outside what we have been doing right, where we need to improve and where we should focus our efforts in the future,” department director Jim Unsworth said in a prepared statement.
Those who commented strongly supported expanding and restoring recreational access to land. The state’s report said the comments focused on restrictions that have been imposed by private landowners, how to preserve and protect access to public lands and the desire for expanded opportunities for people who do not hunt or fish.
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There also was firm support for simplifying the fishing rules. Anglers also want them to be presented more clearly in the annual rule booklet and online, according to the report. Many people want the department to create a mobile app to help anglers find the rules for specific bodies of water.
Department staff across the state have been asking people who fish, hunt and play outside what we have been doing right, where we need to improve and where we should focus our efforts in the future.
Jim Unsworth, director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife
Not all topics garnered such support.
According to the report, topics such as management of land, wildlife, salmon and steelhead drew many differing opinions.
On salmon management, for example, opinions were spread over multiple issues, including allocation of salmon stocks among recreational, commercial and tribal fishermen; the effectiveness of the North of Falcon negotiations; and salmon management tactics for specific bodies of water.
When it comes to steelhead, the report said there appears to be broad support for conserving and recovering wild steelhead, but there are strong differences when it comes to how to achieve those goals.
The comments were gathered at six regional meetings held last fall and through several online channels. The meetings took place in Lacey, Mill Creek, Selah, Spokane Valley, Vancouver and Wenatchee. More meetings are planned later this winter.
400 The number of people who attended one of six meetings to gather input. Nearly 2,500 email and online comments were also received.
The multi-year initiative is designed to strengthen the department’s relationships with communities, increase support for conservation and outdoor recreation, and help ensure that programs and services meet the public’s needs, Unsworth said.
“From population growth to changing climate, we face major management challenges over the next several years, and for us to be successful we need the public’s perspective and assistance,” Unsworth said in his statement. “Candid conversations with anglers, hunters, outdoor recreation groups, commercial fishers and others interested in fish and wildlife are a great way to start tackling these challenges.”
The department will continue to solicit public input while using the report to help guide improvements to current operations and develop policy and budget proposals to address future needs, he added.
As part of that effort, department staff will devote significant time in 2016 to identifying funding options and potential license fee increases to ensure the department can meet its legal responsibilities and public expectations in coming years.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
The progress report on the state’s Wild Future initiative is available wdfw.wa.gov.