October 23, 2023

Wildlife as Stakeholders? The Latest Debate before the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission

Article Contact: Marie Neumiller,

Why It Matters: The sportsmen’s community in Washington State has supported WDFW’s conservation efforts since its inception. Unfortunately, with recent Commission appointments, the hunting and angling community has seen our input discounted. In fact, several on the Commission have frequently proposed naming wildlife (or “non-human life”) as stakeholders of the Commission. It is important that Washington’s sportsmen and women continue to share our voices in a respectful manner to ensure that our traditions and values are represented through Commission decisions and policies.


  • On October 26-28, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Commission will continue their discussion on the proposed draft consideration policy, which among other things, would name wildlife as stakeholders. If adopted, the proposed policy would be a direct affront to the North American Model of Wildlife Management and threaten current conservation efforts.
  • Hunters and anglers have long been the leaders in wildlife conservation in our country, and it is because of those efforts that wildlife is thriving. Successful management of game species promotes conservation of non-game species as well as improving ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has been on the ground in Washington and will be participating in the upcoming Commission meeting. Partner organizations are encouraged to attend and provide testimony on the vital role that hunting and angling plays in conservation.

During their upcoming meeting on October 26th-28th, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission will continue their discussion on their proposed draft conservation policy, which among other things, calls for “providing for equitable benefits to current and future generations of human and non-human life.” The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and partner organizations in Washington State have been actively responding to sportsmen’s growing concerns about the proposed policy changes drafted by the WDFW Commission. After a recent meeting where some Commissioners called for wildlife, especially predators, to be named as stakeholders with equal rights as hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreationists. This request to name wildlife as a stakeholder, instead of property of the state, is reflected in several recent Commission efforts including the Draft Conservation Policy.

The topic of naming wildlife as “stakeholders” with equitable benefits was first brought up by Commissioners on August 9, 2023 during Dr. John Organ’s presentation on the North American Model of Wildlife Management. His presentation stressed the importance of each of the pillars included in that model and pointed out that removing any of the seven tenets listed in the North American model would collapse the plan as a whole. Those seven tenets are:

  • Wildlife as public trust resources
  • Elimination of markets for game, songbirds & shorebirds
  • Allocation of wildlife by law
  • Wildlife can only be killed for legitimate purposes
  • Wildlife is considered an international resource
  • Science is the proper resource for discharge of wildlife policy
  • Democracy of hunting

Sportsmen and women who have long participated in hunting, fishing, trapping, and other outdoor recreational interests are familiar with the North American model and understand the vital role they play in the conservation of wildlife for generations to come. Removing this community from wildlife management would be detrimental to state conservation efforts both for funding (license fees and excise taxes collected at the manufacturer level through the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Programs) and for population management. Hunters and anglers are the key to protecting ecosystems and wildlife populations both today and for the future.

Washington State has been ground zero for anti-hunting and fishing movements. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is on the ground and working hard every day to protect our traditions. CSF helped organize, and currently serves as Co-Chair of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Conservation Partnership (WFWCP). This coalition has brought together nearly 30 national and state sportsmen’s organizations to represent a shared voice both at the commission and legislative level. CSF will be participating in the upcoming WDFW Commission on October 26 – 28 2023 in Olympia which will also be a hybrid meeting, so online participation is possible. Participation and public testimony on the draft conservation policy plan is encouraged to help share how hunting, fishing, and trapping traditions are vital pillars in wildlife management and ecosystem conservation.

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