by Cody McLaughlin - Monday, December 27, 2021
A new group in Washington state has launched with the express purpose of reforming state wildlife agencies to shift their wildlife management efforts “from consumption to conservation,” drawing the ire of hunter-backed wildlife conservation organizations around the country. Calling itself Washington Wildlife First, the group says its first target is its own state’s Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation (DFWC) where it is working to promote a preservationist, anti-hunting attitude over science-based wildlife management decisions. It claims to “not be against hunting or hunters” yet it refers to itself as an adversary of hunters and hunting and its mission statement trashes the sustainable use of America’s wildlife resources and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
According to Washington Wildlife First, “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 today— rapid climate change and unprecedented biodiversity loss,” said Chris Bachman, the group’s advocacy director. “We need agencies that value science, respect nature, and prioritize the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems.”
Bachman’s comment ignores the fact that every state agency across America does just that, making wildlife management decisions based on wildlife science while demonstrating respect for nature and working to restore and protect both game and non-game species and their habitats into the future.
A deeper look into Washington Wildlife First reveals it is a “dark money” group, meaning its donors’ identities are not disclosed, and the fact it is headed by Seattle attorney Claire Loebs Davis, known for pushing so-called “animal rights” lawsuits against the DFWC through her law firm, Animal and Earth Advocates. Among the group’s first objectives is to fill two seats on the state’s fish and wildlife commission with fellow anti-hunting extremists. It recently advocated for the cancellation of the state’s spring bear hunt, kicking off a petition effort by hunter-backed groups that is gaining traction online. Other plans include combatting expanded cougar hunting in Northeast Washington and opposing the management of problem wolf populations that are killing ranchers’ cattle.
Preservation vs. Conservation
Contrary to what Washington Wildlife First purports, conservation and preservation are not interchangeable terms. It issued a statement declaring that the Washington DFWC has “a solemn duty to protect and preserve the state's fish and wildlife. ... ” but of particular interest here is the fact it cherry-picked only a portion of—rather than the agency’s entire—mission statement. The state’s DFWC mission statement actually reads as follows: To preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.
Take a good long look at that second part, which is what this group is seeking to reform. Two anti-hunting commission members have already been added to the commission this year. More would solidify a solidly anti-hunting bent in the Evergreen State and make conservation harder for biologists.
As readers and American sportsmen see far too often, anti-hunting extremist groups like Washington Wildlife First are committed to trying to change the narrative and paint sensible, scientifically driven wildlife management decisions as somehow antithetical to conservation in efforts to alter public opinion. They know that hunters are the chief drivers of conservation worldwide, and that it is a powerful messaging point in our favor, which is why hunters need to be vigilant and push back forcefully against groups that seek to muddy the waters with incorrect messages that try to rebrand preservationist philosophies as conservation.
About the Author
Cody McLaughlin is a noted conservationist and conservative thought leader on public policy issues including hunting, fishing, gun rights, free-market tax and wage policy and the environment. He works as a GOP consultant for conservative political causes, managing clients’ digital communications and online presence and as a trustee of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, helping to represent the state’s 1.2 million sportsmen in the political arena.
E-mail your comments/questions about this site to: