WDFW Commission: Headed Towards Uncharted Territory

The WDFW commission continues to barrel forward into uncharted territory, creating new policies and processes around game management without structure or pre-defined guidelines. Under the current commission leadership hunters have seen the loss of the Spring Bear Season, a lack of concern regarding decreasing elk populations, inflammatory statements regarding hunting ethics and values, and a willful disregard for the impacts of their decisions on disparate communities in Washington. Conservationists should expect further commission decisions that do not align with the historically successful North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. The Washington Chapter continues to advocate for our hunting heritage and sound wildlife policy in commission meetings and is actively engaged in the following issues:

  • Washington Hunters can expect a final version of a Spring bear policy by the end of the year, but should not expect an outcome that provides opportunity even though the hunt has been recommended by WDFW scientists. In the most recent commission meeting, the WDFW offered up its social scientist, Dr. David Trimbach, to help facilitate a structured decision-making process to draft a policy. Commissioners personally opposed to the spring bear hunt initially balked at utilizing his skillset, but eventually agreed to a truncated process that will create a policy by year end. We are hopeful that even if the spring bear season does not advance, that Dr. Trimbach’s expertise will yield a transparent, thorough decision-making processing unlike the commission actions that resulted in the initially cancellation and ongoing postponement of the spring bear season.
  • The Commission has proposed a Conservation Policy that will be used as a foundational policy through which all future commission and WDFW actions will be applied. While such a policy is not problematic in theory, the use of undefined language and lack of stakeholder input will only cement the current intransient policy issues into all future decision-making. The Washington Chapter seeks to clarify the policy and hopes that the commission can commit to better public engagement before finalizing the Conservation Policy. Washington’s Co-Chair Dan Wilson recently submitted public testimony regarding this issue.
  • The Washington chapter continues to seek out opportunities to hold elected and appointed officials to the applicable RCW’s, WAC’s, statutes and WDFW mandates to protect hunting, angling and sound management within the state. We are proud to be a founding member of the newly formed Washington Sportsmen coalition, joining 15 local and national organizations in defense of our outdoor heritage in Washington state
  • We are encouraging that the commission begins to rely heavily on the expertise and skill set of Dr. David Trimbach, a department social scientist with a background in facilitating structured decision making. As the commission chooses to engage in contentious and divisive issues, it is critical that it uses proven methodology and transparency so the public can regain some confidence in their role and authority. We will be submitting a letter to the commission encouraging the use of Dr. Trimbach’s processes in developing the conservation policy, spring bear decision, game management plan and other critical decisions to the long-term success of wildlife and stakeholder engagement.
  • The Washington chapter will continue to advocate that the commission listens and considers the input of indigenous leaders from recognized tribes, as well as elected officials across the state as part of their decision-making process. Poor management decisions will negatively impact sportsmen and sportswomen, as well as rural economies and the First Foods of native people. We continue to strengthen our partnerships and dialogues within these communities to not only advance wildlife policy that benefits our interests, but the social ecosystems that benefit from wildlife and opportunity. 
  • Finally, the Washington Chapter continues to advocate to the Governor’s Office that upcoming commission appointments are in keeping with the relevant RCW’s with individuals committed to the department mandate to “maximize the public recreational game fishing and hunting opportunities for all citizens”.  Commissioners Thorburn and McIsaac have dutifully and faithfully upheld their role in serving Washington’s wildlife and deserve to be reappointed to their seats. The tumultuousness and intractability of the current commission has many factors; however, the Chair is both the official spokesperson of the commission and is responsible for the general conduct of commission meetings. As such, we do not believe that Chair Baker is appropriate for re-appointment. Chapter leadership will advocate for all these positions at the Governor’s Office, while seeking out and recommending additional candidates of merit in case the Governor does not consider these well-founded recommendations on behalf of hunters and anglers in this state. We are proud to advance this work as members and in partnership with the Washington Sportsman’s Coalition.
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