New nonprofit seeks reform of state wildlife management

State wildlife advocates have launched Washington Wildlife First, a new nonprofit dedicated to reforming Washington’s environmental and wildlife management agencies, starting with the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“State wildlife management must shift from a model of consumption to a model of conservation, and recognize the realities of the dual crises that we face — climate change and biodiversity loss,” said Spokane resident Chris Bachman, the advocacy director for Washington Wildlife First. “We need agencies that value science, respect nature, and prioritize the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems.”

Although it will also address issues within the state Department of Natural Resources and Department of Ecology, the nonprofit is first training its sights on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“The Department of Fish and Wildlife has a solemn duty to protect and preserve the state’s fish and wildlife, which it manages in trust on behalf of all of us,” said Seattle area resident Claire Loebs Davis, managing partner of the law firm Animal & Earth Advocates, and board president of Washington Wildlife First.

“Department management is dominated by an outdated mindset that does not reflect the values of the people of Washington,” Davis said. “Its leadership has sacrificed the interests of current and future Washingtonians to cater to the demands of commercial interests, powerful politicians and tiny factions of the hunting and fishing community.”

Washington Wildlife First contends that Fish and Wildlife often ignores the recommendations of its own scientists, allows the hunting and fishing of some species at unsustainable levels, promotes unethical hunting practices, and kills wildlife too quickly in response to purported conflicts.

“We kill state-endangered wolves for preying on livestock that wander our public lands largely unsupervised, and cougar for trying to scratch out a living as we continue to encroach on their wild homes,” Bachman said. “Department management views killing as the first option, rather than a last resort. That has to change.”

David Linn, a resident of Ocean Shores since 2008, has joined the organization’s board and serves as the nonprofit’s treasurer. Since moving to Ocean Shores, he has acquired vacant lots adjacent to his house and is redeveloping them as a wildlife habitat. These properties now comprise almost 2 acres providing sanctuary for a variety of wildlife in Ocean Shores ranging from frogs to black bears.

Washington Wildlife First recently launched It is registered as a Washington nonprofit and has applied for federal tax-exempt status.