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Inside Olympia — Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind

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Our three-part series on fish and wildlife management continues this week, as host Austin Jenkins sits down for the full hour with the director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Kelly Susewind.

Susewind talks about the state of the state’s fisheries, both salt- and freshwater. It depends on the particular run, but fish stocks are generally down from historic levels, especially wild/natural fish, which WDFW is duty bound to manage for. The department has a 10-year fisheries strategic plan that includes co-management with native tribes, which Susewind says is good news for fisheries: “It’s a bit of a forced marriage but it’s working out well in the long run.” Fishing seasons have shortened, and “Any time you’re allocating a scarce resource there’s controversy.”

Regarding wolf management, Susewind says Washington is a model for the nation: “This is an area we should be doing backflips over.”  Yet, much of the attention is focused on continuing controversy — and a years-long battle involving WDFW, Governor Inslee, and the Fish and Wildlife Commission over whether wolves should be managed via protocols or rules. Currently, at Inslee’s direction, the commission must develop rules for wolf management – an approach Susewind disagrees with as inflexible, but which the commission must now develop.

Other topics on the table: A recent survey of hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and outdoor recreation in the state; development of a 10-year recreation strategy for WDFW’s million acres of managed lands; spring bear hunting, and cougar hunting; the controversy over a new state conservation policy; what Susewind says is a high level of conflict, and low level of trust, right now between the public and Fish and Wildlife, especially the commission; a thousand-yard buffer around Southern Resident Killer Whales coming in 2025; the controversy over ebikes on trails; following “best available science” in managing fish and wildlife; and more.