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WDFW Ignores Washington’s Values to Serve Hunters & Special Interests

Washington’s fish and wildlife “belongs” to all state residents—not just hunters, trappers, fishermen, and powerful special interests. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is obligated to act as our trustee, to preserve and protect our fish and wildlife on behalf of all current and future Washingtonians.

 

But WDFW does not serve all of us. Even though most of its funding comes from our general tax dollars, WDFW clings to the outdated concept that the only “customers” it must serve are hunters, trappers, and fisherman—as well as commercial industries like logging and ranching that demand that the state kill wildlife to safeguard their profits.

 

WDFW's management views fish and wildlife merely as products to be “harvested,” rather than as species to be preserved and managed as part of healthy ecosystems. It focuses on maintaining a surplus of game species so that hunters can kill them. It wages war on the carnivores that are essential to balanced ecosystems. It is reactionary and shortsighted, looking to pacify powerful special interests at the expense of future generations.

 

Rather than promoting ethical and sustainable hunting, WDFW seeks to “maximize” opportunities for trophy hunters and fur trappers to kill species like bear, cougar, coyote, bobcat, beaver, mink, river otter, mountain goat, and bighorn sheep. Although WDFW only counted 132 gray wolves statewide last year, it is rushing to take them off the state endangered species list so it can allow wolf hunting. Meanwhile, WDFW promotes risky policies to appease powerful fishing lobbies, ignoring warnings from their own scientists, even as wild fish populations plummet and Southern Resident Killer Whales hover on the brink of extinction.

Management Fosters Toxic Workplace Culture

WDFW employs hundreds of excellent biologists, enforcement officers, conflict officers, and other employees, who care deeply about the state's fish and wildlife. Many have tried to reform the agency from within. But management has silenced dissent through retaliation and bullying, while maintaining a workplace rife with corruption, discrimination, and dissatisfaction.  A recent Washington state auditor report revealed some shocking statistics:

  • One in ten employees witnessed an employee or supervisor commit a legal or ethical violation in the past year;

  • Over 10% experienced retaliation for acts such as reporting illegal or unethical behavior or challenging management;

  • More than 20% have been victimized by workplace bullying in the past year, including yelling, demeaning comments or intimidation, which are often based on gender, while 30% witnessed others being bullied;

  • Less than half believes managers are held accountable when they behave inappropriately;

  • Over two dozen employees interviewed described decisions WDFW management had made on hot-button issues based on purely political considerations, ignoring the internal research and expert recommendations.

 

Unsurprisingly, 71% of staff said these conditions have led to stress and poor morale.

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Urge Gov. Inslee to Return WDFW to the People

WDFW is answerable only to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, a group of nine citizens appointed by Governor Inslee. The Commission has historically been dominated by narrow hunting and commercial interests, with only a token number of seats reserved to represent the nearly 98% of Washingtonians who do not hunt.

As we face the dual threats of the climate crisis and a massive global extinction event, we can no longer afford a model of governance that is focused on exploiting the state’s fish and wildlife, rather than conserving it. We need Commissioners who will represent the interests of all current and future Washingtonians, by focusing on preserving healthy environmental ecosystems and conserving all fish and wildlife.

Governor Inslee now has the opportunity to fill three seats on the Commission, and the chance to return the management of our fish and wildlife to the people of Washington. Join us in asking the Governor to appoint Commissioners who will understand and respect science, prioritize conservation over consumption, promote ethical hunting rather than trying to maximize killing, and represent the interests and values of all Washingtonians.

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