Armed extremists seizing Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is bad enough, but worse are politicians, from state legislators to Republican presidential candidates, echoing an extreme minority’s call to sell off or seize America’s public lands for the benefit of energy and natural resource companies and the very wealthy.

It's time stand up for OUR public lands. Photo: Oregon Wild

It’s time stand up for OUR public lands. Photo: Oregon Wild

Protected and accessible public lands are “America’s best idea”, and they’re supported by a strong majority of Western voters. Public lands provide opportunities for people of all means and backgrounds to hike, ski, camp, fish, hunt, wildlife watch and much more. Opportunities often available only to the wealthy in other nations. Public lands also provide vast contributions to local economies through tourism, outdoor recreation and sustainable (and often subsidized) forestry, agriculture and livestock grazing. And public lands provide vital habitat for fish and wildlife, from abundant game animals to rare and endangered species.

Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir and other conservation forefathers worked tirelessly to ensure that we would have public lands for all to enjoy and benefit from in a responsible manner. Now we have a responsibility to protect that legacy and preserve OUR public lands and outdoor heritage for future generations.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 1/19 at noon there will be rallies in Seattle, Spokane, Boise, Portland and other towns and cities across the West to stand up for our nation’s parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, BLM deserts and other public lands. Please come on down and show your support for America’s Best Idea. 

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A big leap forward today for Washington’s State Fish. More from the Wild Steelhead Coalition below:


In the world of steelhead conservation, victories can be as elusive as the fish we pursue. Like our success on the water, these conservation wins arehard earned and the result of dedication, perseverance, and countless hours of work. So on days like today when our resolve is rewarded, the victory is as sweet as catching a fresh 20-lb chrome-bright wild winter steelhead.

For the last three years, the Wild Steelhead Coalition (WSC) has been proactively pushing for a suite of prudent, forward thinking changes to Washington’s sportfishing regulations that would protect struggling steelhead populations on the Olympic Peninsula (OP). Thanks to the hard work of concerned anglers and the wisdom of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, today these proposals became a reality.

Modeled in-part after successful wild steelhead conservation regulations from Oregon, British Columbia and other areas, these simple, commonsense changes will help conserve wild steelhead while preserving angling opportunities. These changes will do the following:

  • Prohibit the harvest of all wild steelhead and rainbow trout on select OP rivers such as the Hoh, Bogachiel, and Sol Duc. WSC has championed a zero sportfishing harvest policy for more than ten years, and this adopted proposal is the final piece of a decade-long fight. Harvest by recreational anglers may be limited compared to that of other stakeholders on the OP, but this rule will reduce our impact and set a powerful precedent for others to follow.

  • Implement selective gear rules such as barbless hooks and no bait during winter months on select OP rivers in order to protect juvenile steelhead, salmon, and trout.

  • Implement “boats for transportation only” rule on a select stretch of the upper Hoh River outside Olympic National Park to protect holding and spawning adult steelhead and salmon. Similar rules have proven to be successful at reducing catch and release angler induced mortality while also preserving quality fishing opportunity on popular rivers such as Oregon’s Deschutes.

These shifts were carefully crafted and received the support of the North Coast Steelhead Advisory Group (NCSAG), a diverse ad hoc committee comprised of stakeholders from Forks to Seattle that included several WSC board and committee members. NCSAG used a collaborative, consensus-based approach to advance sportfishing rule proposals that chart the best path forward for both wild steelhead and steelheaders.

The Commission’s decision to implement these rule changes comes at a critical time as wild steelhead populations on Washington’s famed Olympic Peninsula slip toward collapse. The status quo has been failing our wild steelhead for years. However, today’s decision marks a stark change of course and signals a shared desire to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

The cause of steelhead decline on the OP is multifaceted, with tribal over-harvest, hatchery supplementation, and habitat loss, particularly on unprotected spawning tributaries, all playing significant roles. But the fact remains that as anglers, we are a part of the problem and therefore we need to be part of the solution.

The hundreds of comments WDFW received from anglers overwhelmingly supporting these rule proposals sent a loud and clear message that anglers are committed to minimizing our collective negative impact on struggling steelhead stocks. Moreover, it was proof positive of anglers’ desire for the state to take the necessary action to protect wild steelhead on the OP and ensure a future that includes angling opportunities in this legendary corner of the Pacific Northwest.

THANK YOU to everyone who submitted comments, attended meetings, and helped spread the word. This victory is a credit to your efforts and your passion for wild steelhead conservation. And a big thank you to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for adopting these critical rule changes.


With all the negative news in the world lately, it was pretty darn inspirational to be a part of something so positive.

Fishers, five to ten pound members of the weasel family, were reintroduced to the Cascades this week, the result of a decade-long partnership between the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the National Park Service (NPS), Conservation Northwest and other organizations. Fishers were trapped and shot to extirpation (local extinction) in Washington’s Cascade Mountains over 70 years ago, mostly due to demand for their luxurious fur.

A short GoPro video I put together of the first fisher release, which was featured by The Seattle Times and Yakima HeraldFull Fishers Return to the Cascades video from Conservation Northwest

Approximately 80 fishers will be released into the south and central Cascades from early December 2015 through February 2017. The releases will occur on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and in Mount Rainier National Park. Two to three years later, releases are planned to follow in the North Cascades in the North Cascades National Park Service Complex and in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

I’ve gotten to help coordinate communications, media and logistics for the reintroduction of fishers, which has been a blast, but the true heroes of this effort are the scientists and decision-makers at WDFW, NPS and Conservation Northwest that have labored for years to make this restoration a reality. And also the funders, both private CNW donors and state and federal agencies (and taxpayers), who put up the funds to make it happen.

As humans and Americans, we’ve done some pretty terrible things to our planet, the environment, wildlife and our natural heritage over the last few centuries. But the reintroduction of fishers, a native species important for this forest ecosystem, is proof that we can still fix what we’ve broken. 

Despite all that’s negative in the world today, we can still do great things. We can build wonders of science, infrastructure, and technology. We can reach new heights of arts, culture and society. And we can protect, connect and restore wild places, reintroducing wild creatures that humans killed off and making the ecosystem healthier and more resilient once again.

The Pacific Northwest is perhaps not as wild and whole as it once was, but today it’s a little wilder than it was before we returned one of the missing pieces.

More on the return of fishers to the Cascades:


It’s that time of year. The rain poured the last few weeks across the Pacific Northwest. Winter steelhead are nosing their way into rivers across the region. Snow is starting to stick in the Cascades (we’ll see if it keeps up this year). And ducks are winging south.

Before heading to Maui for a sunny Thanksgiving vacation with family, I got out on a rainy Friday morning for my first waterfowl hunt of the year. I only had a few hours before heading into work, and despite the recent downpour my favorite local public-access spot hadn’t quite filled up with water. As I’ve done countless times before, I resigned myself to hunting the “puddle” that was available, hoping that with a looming change in the weather birds would be flying.


Most didn’t want anything to do with my little patch of water or my small spread of decoys, but the birds were certainly flying. Small flocks of teal, mallards and even two pintails and a big V of snow geese cruised by to take a look. Nearly all were out of range and hesitant to commit, but just seeing so many ducks was a great start to the season.

After missing on a teal flying at Mach 1 and blowing an opportunity on two beautiful pintail drakes after whistling them in from what seemed like a mile out, I was thinking the morning might be a bust. Nothing new for me, but unfortunate considering the chances I’d had.

Then a pair of mallards appeared out of the slate gray sky, cruising in low with no hail call needed and the most perfect slow, settling approach that a duck hunter could ask for. It was a beautiful thing. At least until they banked at the last second and tried to land on a brushy patch of water just outside my decoys.

Knowing the pair would be tough to get once they got in the weeds, I took the shot I had on the closer bird, a hen, and watched it splash satisfyingly down in my deeks. My follow-up shot at the second duck was late, wide and without affect. But in hunting (and in fishing) there is a difference between one and none that defies the rules of arithmetic.

After retrieving the downed bird and giving it another 30 minutes, I waded out of my soggy blind, pulled my decoys, and deemed it a successful day.


My go-to process with gamebirds is 24 hours hanging in a cool garage (except for gut shot birds or diver ducks). Not only does it tenderize the meat and enhance the flavor, but the last thing I usually want to do after an early morning on the marsh is to pluck and clean my haul.

After this standard aging, I breasted out my bird. Likely driven south by a recent storm, the duck didn’t have the thick fat one always hopes for. But for an early season mallard it was nothing to complain about.

Leaving the skin on of course, brining the breast meat in salted ice water for 30 minutes to remove any lingering blood, adding a sprinkle of dill and lemon pepper for extra flavor (chipotle pepper is another favorite of mine), and then following the “How to Cook Duck Breasts” instructions from Hank Shaw‘s excellent Duck, Duck, Goose cookbook, my mallard was ready for searing.


Call me a hipster if you will, but I’ve found that nothing works better for searing waterfowl than a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Need to season your cast iron? I don’t think anything works better for that than cooking a fatty goose or mallard breast. A quick wipe down after each use and your skillet will be better than ever.

Ducks are one of my very favorite things to prepare. I worked for enough restaurants and caterers in highschool and college to consider myself a decent cook, but waterfowl always provides an excellent and humbling challenge. On top of that, the opportunities for variation are endless.

As any experienced duck chef should tell you, the number one thing to remember when cooking these birds is less is more. Rare or medium-rare ducks are moist, tender and flavorful. Overcooked ducks are dry, tough and gamey. And the dividing line between the two is unforgiving.

More time is needed for geese and very fat ducks, but in most cases I like to pull my waterfowl off the skillet or grill before its even done, knowing that it will cook to completion while “resting” on the cutting board.

In this case it was less than four minutes between the time the two mallard breasts touched cast iron and when they were sitting on my cutting board. A minute or two of rest, a few strokes with a sharp knife, a side of rice and green beans and a topping of home-canned cranberry chutney, and the first duck of the season was ready to serve.


Not the best picture, but let me assure you it was delicious. Even my fiance, who doesn’t relish the taste of duck like I do, loved it. Maybe that was because it went perfectly with her chutney.

There’s something about duck that tastes like the season in which we eat it. It’s rich, warm and homey; perfect for a dreary winter night. And the complexity of flavor hints at the incredible journey these birds make, from Alaska and northern Canada to Central America and back again.

I’m by no means an expert waterfowl hunter or an expert chef. Far from it. But there’s something about duck hunting, and cooking, that strikes a chord with me. It takes patience, determination and humility. Traits myself and most other hunters and cooks can benefit from. Something about duck hunting just fits.

And now watching ominous rain clouds roll in off Puget Sound as I type this, its in-part because of these birds that I find joy and optimism in the changing seasons. Dark, wet and stormy days are ahead. There is little that compares with the dreariness of November and December in the Pacific Northwest.

But whenever I brave a downpour or watch another winter storm bearing in, I know that the good rain is calling winter steelhead home to glacial headwaters. It’s bringing fresh powder and a much needed snowpack to the highcountry of the Cascades. And it’s sending ducks south on whistling wings.

I’ll be out there to welcome them back.


We still have a chance to reverse the long decline of iconic wild steelhead on Washington’s legendary Olympia Peninsula. But if changes aren’t made soon for these fish and fisheries, we may lose what little chance we have left. 

Submit a comment to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today supporting regulation changes that will help conserve wild steelhead runs on the OP and preserve our angling heritage for future generations.

Proposed by WDFW’s North Coast Steelhead Advisory Group (NCSAG), a diverse citizen-input committee made up of gear and fly anglers, guides, recreational anglers, and other stakeholders from across the OP and Western Washington, these are commonsense, collaborative steps in the right direction to preserve wild steelhead populations and fishing opportunity for them in one of their last remaining strongholds, the Olympic Peninsula.

Summary of NCSAG proposals:

  1. Require barbless hooks at all times and in all waters of the North Coast Rivers, and allow only one hook with up to 3 points.
  2. Limit the use of bait to those times and river segments where an angler can expect to encounter returning hatchery steelhead (generally Oct. 1 through February 15, see proposed dates in table below).
  3. Require the release of all wild (unclipped) steelhead and rainbow trout.
  4. Prohibit fishing from floating devices (boats for transportation only) on the Hoh River above Morgan’s Crossing.
  5. Prohibit the use of internal combustion motors on all North Coast Rivers.

While these proposals do add some new angling regulations, they should not in anyway reduce quality angling opportunity or the economic contribution from fishing for local OP economies.

Similar such proposals, including no fishing from a boat (boats can be used for transportation only, you have to get out to fish) have been in place for years on Oregon’s Deschutes River and several tributaries of the Skeena River in British Columbia. These are some of the healthiest and most economically viable steelhead fisheries on the planet.

People of all ages come from around the world to fish the Deschutes and Skeena system rivers and contribute many thousands of dollars to the local economies. “No fishing from a floating device” regulations provide additional refuges for spawning fish and reduce angling-induced mortality on sensitive populations, while still allowing for excellent fishing.

The public lands and waters of the OP provide exceptional access on over a half-dozen steelhead rivers and many more tributaries. Countless braided channels, gravel bars, rocky beaches and shallow tailouts and boulder gardens offer opportunities for anglers of all ages and abilities to get out of the boat and fish from the beach, whether they’re swinging spoons, tossing floats and jigs or spey casting a fly.

Grays Harbor Steelhead Float

I fly fish for steelhead, I gear fish for steelhead, I fish from a boat sometimes and I fish from the beach other times. Many days I do both. I have friends who are steelhead guides or who work in the fishing industry. I don’t consider myself any sort of a “wild fish extremist” or “fly fishing elitist”. Someday, I’d really like to be able to harvest and eat some of the wild steelhead I catch, but right now I understand populations in Washington, including on the OP, aren’t healthy enough to do so.

I also believe that many other factors are at play in the decline of wild steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula. Most impactful among them is gill-net harvest from the co-manager tribes. I strongly believe that our Native American neighbors have a cultural and legal right to fish for and harvest some of these fish, just like sport or “recreational” anglers do. But with that right comes the responsibility to steward this shared resource for future generations. Serious changes are needed to the current harvest-oriented management scheme if we are going achieve a long term, meaningful rebound of our OP wild steelhead runs.

But pointing fingers at the nets alone won’t solve our problems or reverse the current decline. We as anglers must recognize that we have impacts on these fish as well. Impacts that are only growing greater with increased fishing pressure and improved prowess at catching winter steelhead. It’s time we take additional steps reduce that impact.

They’re not a cure-all, but commonsense, collaborative regulation proposals like those recommended by the North Coast Steelhead Advisory Group are a strong step in the right direction. I hope WDFW and the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will enact them as soon as possible.

More support for the NCSAG proposals from:


A neat event that I’ll be MC’ing on Nov. 11 at Second Ascent in Ballard.

If you like to hike, climb, camp, hunt, fish or recreate in the North Cascades, or you just want to hear some great adventure stories and useful info about bears and bear safety (and enjoy some great local brews!), come check it out:

Living with Grizzly Bears_Second Ascent Poster 16 x 20 (1920x2400)

More event info from Conservation Northwest:

Washington’s North Cascades is a federally designated Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone. What might the restoration of these iconic animals mean for those of us who live, work, and play in the wild landscapes of the Pacific Northwest?

Humans evolved in the presence of big and sometimes dangerous animals and the return of grizzly bears offers a doorway back to a primal experience of wildlife and wildlands—something craved by many in our ever increasingly complicated modern world. But what have we forgotten that our ancestors knew from living closely with large mammals like grizzly bears?

Enjoy photos and stories from biologist, photographer, author and outdoor educator David Moskowitz’s work and travels across landscapes where grizzly bears roam. Learn how to distinguish grizzly bears from black bears, both from animals you have seen and their tracks and signs, and the differences in behavior of these two species. And what steps should we take to safely live and recreate in grizzly bear country?

David’s work as a biologist, photographer, author, and mountaineering and tracking instructor have brought him into close quarters with grizzly bears across the Pacific Northwest, in the U.S. and Canadian Rockies and in Alaska and central Europe. During the presentation he will explore both the changes that increasing grizzly bear populations may bring to our region’s ecosystems, as well as how we humans might need to adapt to their presence in some of our favorite outdoor haunts.

Conservation Northwest staff will also be on hand to answer questions and provide information about the North Cascades grizzly bear restoration EIS.


The below is copied from a Conservation Northwest action alert regarding WDFW’s Washington’s Wild Future initiative and related public comment opportunities. Take action now by clicking here.

Comment on WDFW’s “Washington’s Wild Future”

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is currently asking for comments to help guide the future of the agency. This public input opportunity is part of WDFW’s new multi-year initiative, Washington’s Wild Future: A Partnership for Fish and Wildlife.

“I want to hear about what we are doing right, where we need to improve, and where we should focus our efforts and our funding over the next five to ten to 20 years,” says Director Jim Unsworth about the initiative. Unsworth was hired in early 2105 to lead the Department.

Tasked with conserving and managing Washington’s fish and wildlife, as well as regulating opportunities to enjoy, view and harvest them, the mission of WDFW is to “preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.”

It’s vitally important that conservationists from across our state speak up to help ensure a future that includes healthy, abundant wildlife populations (including carnivores) and protected, connected wildlife habitat. Please take action today!

As our top priorities, we (Conservation Northwest) believe WDFW should:

  • Increase focus and funding on non-game species, protecting and restoring Washington’s vast biological diversity.

  • Advance and maintain science-based policy.

  • Boost efforts to recover grizzly bears, wolves, lynx, fisher and other carnivores.

  • Pursue strategic wildlife habitat acquisitions and easements.

  • Manage motorized access to restore wildlife habitat quality.

Public comments are open until October 31. Click here to submit a comment to WDFW, or scroll down for more suggested comments and talking points.

Suggested Comments on Washington’s Wild Future

Dear Director Jim Unsworth, WDFW staff and the Fish and Wildlife Commission,

Thank you for accepting comments from the public as part of the Washington’s Wild Future: A Partnership for Fish and Wildlife initiative. This is a welcome and encouraging opportunity to provide input on a vitally important public agency tasked with protecting and conserving our shared natural heritage. I applaud you for opening this dialogue and urge you to be transparent in reporting and sharing the feedback you receive.

Now and in the future, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife should:

  • Pursue science-based management for all fish and wildlife species, specifically carnivores. Social tolerance, harvest opportunity and other factors should be considered, but not above science-based wildlife management recommendations.

  • Increase conservation priority and focus on non-game species, including allocating more time, funds and staff resources towards non-game species recovery, conservation and habitat enhancement.

CG NOTE: I strongly believe that efforts to do so, while necessary and appropriate, should NOT reduce or degrade opportunities for Washington’s hunters and anglers.

  • Increase WDFW conservation focus and priority on native carnivores as they recover in our state, including smaller carnivores such as lynx, wolverine and fisher. Native carnivores of all sizes are vital for healthy ecosystems and are an important part of our state’s natural heritage.

  • Operate with transparent process and decision making at all levels, from the Director and Commission to field and technical staff. WDFW is tasked with safeguarding and perpetuating a rich and diverse public resource: fish, wildlife and our natural heritage. As such, decisions and information that lead to those decisions should remain public in a prompt, open and transparent manner.

  • Recognize that WDFW is accountable to and operates on behalf of numerous Washington citizens and stakeholders who are “non-consumptive users” of fish and wildlife. Hikers, campers, wildlife watchers, boaters, horseback riders and many others benefit from and care about healthy fish and wildlife populations just like hunters and anglers do. WDFW should increase participation with and seek input from these constituencies. In addition, WDFW should explore ways to allow “non-consumptive users” to participate in increased direct funding of WDFW’s conservation and management efforts.

CG NOTE: It’s vitally important that these “non-consumptive users of our state’s fish and wildlife and WDFW-owned or -operated wildlands help pay for the conservation and management of those fish, wildlife and wildlands. Currently, hunters and anglers shoulder an unfair burden of direct funding through license sales when compared to other users such as wildlife watchers, mountain bikers or hikers. For example, I’ve had the frustrating experience of showing up to a WDFW Wildlife Area with $300 worth of licenses and tags in my pocket, only to see mountain bikers riding trails on $5,000 bikes whose only direct contribution to WDFW or state wildlife and wildlands preservation was a $35 Discover Pass.

  • Participate in and support ongoing efforts to actively and responsibly restore a healthy population of grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem. Grizzly bears have been an important part of our state and region for thousands of years. They play a vital role for the health of the environment and other wildlife species, figure prominently in regional Native American culture, and contribute to the richness of our natural heritage. With only a handful of grizzly bears remaining in the North Cascades, we are at risk of losing this important piece of the region’s biodiversity. WDFW should support efforts to restore grizzly bears in the North Cascades in a way that incorporates thorough citizen, community and stakeholder input and fully respects tribal treaty rights.

  • Continue to support the existing Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and sustainable wolf recovery across our state, while working to promote social tolerance and reduce conflict between people, livestock and wolves. Continue to closely monitor interaction between wolves, ungulates and other prey species, assessing for any negative impacts. Wolf recovery can and should work for people, wolves and other wildlife populations too.

CG NOTE: I also support management actions and policies that work to prevent or reduce scientifically confirmed negative impacts on the health of Washington’s ungulate populations caused by the return of wolves. Predators are an important part of healthy ecosystems and our natural heritage. If conserved and managed properly, predators can boost the health of ungulate populations. And predator populations will often “self-regulate” based on prey availability (such as through reduced estrus or depressed survival rates among offspring). However, a balance needs to be maintained, and predator populations should not be allowed to expand to the point of significantly harming the health of deer, elk, moose or other ungulate populations. What’s more, Washington does not have the robust deer and elk numbers or the abundant hunting and wildlife watching opportunity found in the Rocky Mountain states where wolves previously recovered. Our already declining ungulate populations and comparatively limited quality hunting opportunity should be factored into our state’s predator management policies. 

  • Seek to be more proactive in pursuing conservation actions and policies before species become threatened or endangered. While doing so may require new strategic partnerships and collaboration with outside stakeholders and groups, preemptive strategies to conserve and restore fish and wildlife are preferred to reactive ones, and are likely to be more cost efficient over the long term.

  • Incorporate policies that address the threats of a changing climate into the Department’s planning and management. This should include the carbon storage benefits of old forests when considering management actions regarding WDFW-operated land, as well as fish and wildlife’s need for increased habitat connectivity, intergovernmental coordination (such as with British Columbia), and ecosystem resilience to help them adapt to a changing climate.

  • Continue to actively and strategically acquire land for Wildlife Areas and other WDFW-owned or managed wildlife habitat, as well as for outdoor recreation including hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. WDFW should be applauded for its recent land acquisition initiatives and other community partnerships that improve public and private land for wildlife and outdoor recreation. This has strong benefits for wildlife conservation, local economies, and outdoor recreation opportunity, and should be continued.

  • Increase harvest regulations enforcement and anti-poaching initiatives. While recognizing that funding and staff resources to combat poaching and enforce fishing and hunting regulations are stretched thin, the illegal harvest of fish and wildlife is far too common in our state. And far too uncommon is the presence of enforcement officers on our state’s waters and wildlands. A lack of funding does not negate the dire need for increased enforcement and anti-poaching initiatives to protect our natural heritage.

  • Prioritize wild fish and wildlife over hatchery- and farm-produced animals. Prioritizing and conserving wild fish and wildlife has strong benefits for healthy ecosystems, while fish and wildlife produced by hatcheries and “game farms” can cause severe negative impacts on wild fish and wildlife species as well as harm to healthy ecosystems. Wild fish and wildlife recovery and conservation should be prioritized over hatchery and “game farm” production.

CG NOTE: Hatcheries have an important role in providing fishing and harvest opportunities in watersheds where habitat, wild run size or other conditions are no longer sufficient for wild fish recovery. However, in watersheds with ample remaining returns of wild salmon, trout, steelhead or other native fish, and sufficient quality habitat for their recovery, wild fish recovery and conservation should be prioritized over hatchery production. Some rivers should be managed for fishing opportunity, including with hatchery fish, others should be managed with wild fish recovery as the goal (which can include fishing through recovery!).

  • Regulate and enforce motorized use, especially Off-Highway-Vehicle, All-Terrain-Vehicle and Off-Road-Vehicle use, on all WDFW owned or operated areas to reduce negative impacts to sensitive wildlife such as elk. Doing so also protects quality hunting, hiking, wildlife watching and other outdoor recreation opportunities that can be negatively impacted by excessive motorized use. Roads that severely harm wildlife and habitat security or are unsustainable ecologically or economically should be removed.

  • Adhere to WDFW’s mission statement when considering revenue opportunities relating to WDFW owned or operated lands. Revenue from selective timber harvest, livestock grazing, or other natural resource use may be compatible with WDFW’s mission, but it must be managed as a secondary consideration that does not in any way infringe upon the goals of conserving and protecting fish and wildlife populations, providing sustainable fish- and wildlife-related recreational and commercial experiences, and maintaining a high quality of life dependent on access to our state’s rich natural heritage.

Thank you again for this important initiative and for your work for a wild future in Washington state.

Methow and Sinlahekin Road Trip

Moose at WDFW’s Sinlahekin Wildlife Area. Photo: Chase Gunnell


Washington wildfires have been one of the biggest media stories of the year, both in our state and across the nation. And rightfully so considering the (short term) impacts to people, property, wildlife and wildlands.

But there are things we can do to prevent or reduce disastrous fires. At Conservation Northwest, our Forest Field Program and partners at state, federal and tribal agencies have been working to make investments for forest resilience and fire preparedness for years. Now, some of the early data from 2015 fires is showing they paid off.

Learn how in the Fire Dispatch below from the Conservation Northwest blog.

CNW Fire Dispatch #12 – Inside the fire lines

Editor’s Note: This is the twelfth of our fire dispatches from staff and colleagues that live or work in the areas impacted by this year’s fires. Dispatch #1Dispatch #2Dispatch #3Dispatch #4Dispatch #5Dispatch #6Dispatch #7Dispatch #8Dispatch #9Dispatch #10Dispatch #11.
A forest ecologist, Dave Werntz lives and works in the Methow Valley community of Twisp. He previously authored our second Fire Dispatch, Perspective from our Science Director, after evacuating due to the Twisp River Fire.

By Dave Werntz, Conservation Northwest Science and Conservation Director

Fires are intense and sometimes frightening agents of transformation. They draw from the basic elements of topography, vegetation, and weather to sculpt mosaics on landscapes held dear by countless people and vital for innumerable wild creatures. But while fire maps show neat lines and news reports describe acres burned (or too often, “devastated”), we know from past fire research that within the burn perimeter fire behavior is immensely diverse but not without pattern.

Looking at those patterns today, early indications are that our investments in forest and wildlands restoration helped shaped the way the 2015 fires played out on the landscape. In several places, it appears this work favorably affected fire growth and behavior.

Ecologists describe historic or characteristic fire behavior according to its extent, frequency and severity. Before aggressive fire suppression began many years ago, many of our region’s shrub-steppe grasslands burned frequently with small, high-intensity fires. Slightly upslope, dry pine and mixed-conifer forests burned with similar frequency but with less intensity. Near mountain tops, wetter forests burned hot over larger areas during years of drought, often at intervals that could span centuries. On the mid-elevation slopes in between there was lots of variability in fire frequency, size and intensity.

With this knowledge, Conservation Northwest’s Forest Field Program has been preparing for the hot summer drought of 2015 for more than a decade. Our goal is resilient forests and watersheds that are capable of withstanding natural disturbances, including those bolstered by climate change, as well as safer towns and communities.

Click for a full-size PDF map of our forest restoration projects and 2015 fire perimeters.

Over the years, we’ve shaped key parts of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest’s Restoration Strategy and the Colville National Forest’s Collaborative Landscape Restoration Project, which guide federal actions to restore landscape and stand conditions disrupted by decades of fire suppression and harmful logging.

In the field, our focus has been collaborative work on dozens of projects to improve ecological resilience through thinning small trees, protecting large old fire resistant trees, conducting prescribed burns, removing harmful roads, and restoring landscape patterns that drive ecological processes like fire. Outcomes include restored fish and wildlife habitat, improved management effectiveness and efficiency, and good quality local jobs.

Recent forest restoration projects and 2015 fire perimeters.
Recent forest restoration projects in north-central Washington and 2015 perimeters of the Okanogan Tunk and North Star Fires. Click here for the full map.

As a society, we’ve tended to invest effort in the drier forest types where the best opportunities exist for productive outcomes. This summer, a lot of acres and lots of different landscapes burned. Fires crossed throughstate, private, tribal, and federal areas and touched shrub-steppe grasslands, old wild forests, industrial timber, grazing allotments, and most everything in between. During this exceptionally hot, dry summer, everything seemed prone to burn.

We’re on the edge of our seats waiting to see how our efforts have fared under these conditions; to learn how fire interacted with restoration projects. Initial observations from agency officials with access behind the gates or working inside the fire lines are intriguing.

The Forest Service reports that behavior of the Tunk Block fire northeast of Omak changed significantly for the better when it reached completed restoration projects. Similar results were reported on State lands at the Similkameen and Sinlahekin Wildlife Areas. Higher in the mountains, the Black Canyon/MacFarlane Creek fire in the Methow’s Chelan-Sawtooth Range was confined by older fires on two sides.

As we develop more information in the coming days and weeks, lessons from these fires will inform our future practices and policy. Scientists tell us that the fire seasons of 2014 and 2015 are unlikely to be anomalies in the coming decades. It’s up to all of us to work together for a future in Eastern Washington with healthy, resilient forests, watersheds, and wild ecosystems and vibrant, well-prepared communities.

For the latest official fire updates, we recommend Inciwebthis GIS map, and the Okanogan County Emergency ManagementChelan County Emergency ManagementColville Tribes Emergency ServicesStevens County Fire District #1 and Ferry County Sheriff’s Office / 911 Facebook pages.


Some great fire perspective and analysis is available from my colleagues at Conservation Northwest who are on the front lines of this year’s wildfires in Washington state:

“We still have at least a few weeks of risky fire season in which anything can happen. But I have a couple observations to make about what has thus far burned. The large fires of 2014 and 2015 have primarily been in the frontcountry shrub-steppe, with Wolverine and Stickpin being notable exceptions. Many of our most expensive and damaging fires have started and burned through private and heavily-managed lands including those managed for industrial production. Fires near and in Wenatchee, Chelan, Riverside, Addy all started nearby. What this means is that when conditions are this ripe, with the land dry and the weather hot and occasionally windy, everything can be prone to fire.

We need to plan for more frequent drought and fire conditions like those we are experiencing this year by advancing policies that promote climate adaptation, such as managing for forest and ecosystem resilience, and local community preparedness.” 

Methow Valley, August 2015 Photo Jasmine MinbashianWe’ll be posting regular updates, photos and perspectives from the Methow, Okanogan and other areas of Eastern Washington on the Conservation Northwest blog until the fires go out.

For the latest official fire updates, I recommend: Inciweb, this GIS map (or this one), Okanogan County Emergency Management and Chelan County Emergency Management.

For more quality wildfire coverage, check out these articles:  Washington Post – Five myths about wildfires  The Guardian – ‘It’s unrelenting’: inside the Washington town surrounded by raging wildfires 2015 wildfires: The view from Omak

Strong winds and low humidity are expected through this week, with fire danger remaining high. But thankfully some rain might be in the forecast east of the Cascades this coming weekend.

Conservation Northwest’s Twisp staffers were evacuated last week, another of my coworkers in Omak is safe but surrounded by fires, and now the Wolverine Fire is poised to jump from the Entiat drainage into the Chiwawa Valley, threatening the Plain and Lake Wenatchee area.

More on that in this “It’s Time to Prepare” notice our family and many others in the Plain community received from the Lake Wenatchee Fire District.

While currently minor in the scheme of fire impacts, this last development and precautionary forest closures are canceling some of my fall hunting plans, blocking access to remote camera monitoring sites I manage for North Cascades wolverine research, and causing many in the community where my family has long had a cabin to start packing up valuables and preparing for possible Level 1 evacuation warnings later this week. Hopefully those don’t come.