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Speak up for Washington’s Wild Future!

Posted by: Fred Koontz, Ph.D., Vice President of Field Conservation

Here’s your chance to tell the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) how much you care about our local animals and habitats.

Jim Unsworth, WDFW Director, has announced an exciting new multi-year initiative, Washington’s Wild Future: A Partnership for Fish and Wildlife. The idea is to seek public comments and ideas to strengthen the department’s relationships with communities, increase support for conservation and outdoor recreation, and help ensure the department meets the public’s needs.

Woodland Park Zoo has partnered with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for nearly 25 years, including on the recovery of the endangered western pond turtle. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Four regional public forums have been scheduled for October.  Each meeting will begin with a presentation about the importance of fish and wildlife to Washington’s quality of life and the economies of its local communities. Participants will then be invited to speak with department representatives, as well as Dr. Unsworth.

Four upcoming Wild Futures meetings are scheduled for 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the following dates and locations:

  • Oct. 6 – WDFW Mill Creek Office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd, Mill Creek.
  • Oct. 8 – Saint Martin’s University, Norman Worthington Conference Center, 5300 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey.
  • Oct. 14 – Water Resources Education Center, 4600 SE Columbia Way, Vancouver.
  • Oct. 20 – Port of Chelan County Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology Center Way, Wenatchee.

It is very important that Dr. Unsworth, who is new to Washington and WDFW, hears from the public their strong support for wildlife conservation.  I hope you can attend one of these meetings, or alternatively, leave written suggestions and comments on Washington’s Wild Future webpage.

On October 6, zoo staff will release about 750 headstarted, endangered Oregon spotted frogs into their wetlands habitat in Pierce County. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo for nearly 25 years has worked closely with WDFW on a variety of species and wildlife issues, including western pond turtles, Oregon spotted frogs and carnivore conservation. We are grateful for our partnership with WDFW and for their hard work protecting Washington’s rich diversity of fish and wildlife, but at the same time we are concerned about the future of wildlife in our state. Dr. Unsworth’s call to work with the public to build a stronger and more effective Fish and Wildlife is both timely and urgent.

A remote camera captures the moment a wolverine approaches a non-invasive hair snare. These monitoring techniques, set up by Woodland Park Zoo Senior Conservation Fellow Robert Long, enable researchers to take identifying images and collect hair for genetic research. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

As human numbers inevitably increase in coming years, development will likely cause significant habitat loss and fragmentation, and as a result we will witness an accelerating number of threatened species. From our perspective, the department should be less reactive and more proactive in addressing biodiversity conservation. Best management practice suggests taking actions before species become endangered. But this will require additional funds for the department and more strategic and stronger partnerships between WDFW, academia, businesses, civic leaders, citizens, non-profit organizations and other state agencies. In the long run, a more proactive approach to protect all species will cost less and is much more likely to protect human wellbeing and our local economies than trying to rescue endangered species.

Plans are being considered by federal and state officials to restore grizzly bears in North Cascades National Park.  In coming months, when the final proposal is submitted for public review, we will be asking you to speak up for Washington grizzly bears! Photo courtesy of Western Wildlife Outreach, a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife.

At Woodland Park Zoo, we believe that protecting wildlife is essential in order to build a resilient and sustainable Washington for our children and future generations. Here are a few points I will make to Dr. Unsworth and Washington’s Wild Future initiative:

A healthy, sustainable Washington for people and animals requires that WDFW and its partners proactively manage and protect “all species for all constituents.”
WDFW is currently underfunded and in urgent need of additional financial resources.
Wildlife management decisions ought to be based on science and expert advice, not political compromise. This is especially true for carnivores like wolves, grizzly bears and cougars.
Protecting wildlife in Washington would benefit greatly by WDFW increasing the number and variety of its strategic partnerships, as citizen participation from a broad group of stakeholders will be necessary to demonstrate the public’s strong desire to invest in wildlife conservation.
Woodland Park Zoo stands ready to help WDFW in its efforts to protect our state’s precious wildlife heritage.

Please join me in sharing your support for wildlife by participating in the Washington’s Wild Future. Speaking up is one of the most important actions you can make to both save animals and create a sustainable world!