A new survey suggests Washington’s wildlife department is ‘out of touch with the public’ may have political implications

A majority of Washington believes that the goal of state wildlife managers should be to “preserve and protect fish and wildlife,” according to a survey by a nonprofit organization dedicated to reforming the state’s wildlife management agency.

This language was pulled directly from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife mission statement and placed alongside Part Two of the mission that calls for maximizing “hunting and fishing opportunities.” Twenty percent of those surveyed said this should be the goal of the World Federation of Family Care.

The department’s full mission statement is “Conserve, protect and sustain fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing recreational and commercial opportunities for sustainable fish and wildlife.”

Samantha Brueger, executive director of Washington Wildlife First, said that finding – among other things – shows that “management is far from the public”. non-profit organization, Founded in 2021And the The results were presented at the Wildlife Society’s annual conference in Spokane this week.

“I think our survey did a great job of showing that department policy has a huge gap between how the public values ​​these types and how the department manages those types,” she said.

Opponents of Washington Wildlife First’s efforts to reform state administration have criticized how the questions were phrased, arguing that the wording led to predetermined answers or created faulty divisions.

“My thoughts would be to assume that if you have an end goal in mind, it doesn’t matter how independent your polling organization is,” said Dan Wilson, co-chair of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in Washington. “If you have guiding questions, you will still get answers appropriate to your situation.”

Preserving and protecting the state’s wildlife does not conflict with maximizing hunting opportunities, Wilson said, a fundamental principle of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model.

The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling, a national polling company based in Raleigh, North Carolina that “conducts opinion polls of politicians, political organizations, unions, consultants, nonprofits, and businesses.”

Between October 17 and 18, pollsters polled 713 registered voters in Washington with 60% over text and 40% over the phone. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 3.7%.

Claire Davis, an attorney and president of Washington Wildlife First, said staff drafted the questions and sent them to the polling agency, which then lightly edited them.

“Our attempt was to be as fair as possible so you could read the questions and assess what the answers meant for yourself,” she said. “For some questions, there is some information included in the question… which is not unusual in a poll.”

The poll organizers also asked respondents if they “support or oppose the use of taxpayer money to recruit and revitalize more poachers,” Reference to part of the entertainment plan recently published by WDFW Part of it calls for the recruitment of a new hunter. Of those surveyed, 56% opposed the use of taxpayer money in this effort and 27% supported it.

The poll organizers also asked respondents about the outcome of the state review for 2021Among other things, 21% of WDFW workers reported having experienced bullying at work in the past year while 30% reported seeing bullying directed at others in the past year; 68% of respondents said they found it “extremely disturbing”.

Davis said she was “surprised” that the scrutiny was not getting more attention.

Respondents also had strong views on carnivorous management with 80% opposed to hunting spring bears. In households with active hunters, 69% opposed the pursuit of a spring bear. That opposition spread across the state with 81% opposed to spring bear hunting in King County and 77% in eastern Washington.

The survey also found that 38% of Washington residents support killing endangered wolves in response to predation on livestock; 25% supported killing wolves for preying on livestock in state forest lands and 22% supported killing wolves “when owners did not take reasonable steps to protect livestock.

Julia Smith, lead wolf policy at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said there were “no surprises” in the wolf’s responses and that the results match those of the current WDFW administration.

“It’s a near-equal split between support and opposition to the lethal removal of wolves, with 20% unsure,” World Family Welfare Federation spokeswoman Staci Lehmann said in an email. “We really don’t kill wolves unless owners take reasonable steps to protect livestock.”

More broadly, Lehman said the WDFW “recognizes that people’s values ​​and attitudes differ.” It cited a survey conducted by WDFW in 2021 shows 48% of Washington residents agree with some lethal control of carnivores to protect deer, elk and moose populations in Washington, compared to 30% who oppose.

Davis agreed that the two surveys complement each other with broad strokes. She argued, however, that the Washington Wildlife First survey asked more specific, concrete questions and sampled a broader group of Washingtonians. 32% of those surveyed live in King County, 15% in North Puget Sound, 16% in South Puget Sound, 17% in Eastern Washington, 10% in Southwest Washington, and 7% in the Olympic Peninsula, and 3% in Central Washington.

“You don’t take everything based on one survey,” she said. “You look at a variety of different polls. We’re not saying our poll is everything and end everything.”

political considerations

Aside from revealing what the general public thinks, the poll may also have political implications. Three seats on the nine-person committee tasked with overseeing the WDFW are open for appointments in December, including East Washington Commissioner Kim Thorburn, an outspoken critic of Washington Wildlife First and its reform mission. And while Davis said the poll was not deliberately set to coincide with the reappointments, she hopes it will influence the governor’s decisions.

“We did the poll when we were able to gather the resources to do the poll because polling isn’t cheap,” she said. “But we certainly think it is very important for Governor Inslee to take the poll results into account when we consider appointing the next three commissioners.”

Thorburn, who headed the Spokane Regional Health District until 2006, said she had “a significant distrust of ‘science’ by special interest groups.” She cites the Tobacco Wars — in which tobacco companies have published study after study advocating smoking — as evidence to support her mistrust.

Regardless of the methodology has greater criticism.

“I don’t think that good policy that is mostly about societal values ​​is made by enforcing majority values, especially when they completely obscure minority culture,” she said in an email.

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