Thanks to a collaboration of Washington state fishing advocates, local wildlife law enforcement have more tools to help patrol the Olympic Peninsula’s rivers and coastlines.
The Wild Steelhead Coalition, the Wild Salmon Center and Wild Steelheaders United (Trout Unlimited) recently joined forces to donate a package of equipment — including rafts, trail cameras, waders and boots, and a drone — to support Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife law enforcement teams working on the Pacific coast and Olympic Peninsula, Wild Steelhead Coalition representatives said in December.
“It is necessary for Fish and Wildlife Police to increase enforcement presence, and utilize state-of-the-art equipment to ensure resource protection,” WDFW Captain Dan Chadwick said in a statement
Chadwick oversees Region 6, including Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, Thurston and Wahkiaku counties.
“Partnerships with local and statewide community organizations like Wild Steelhead Coalition, Trout Unlimited, and Wild Salmon Center are essential in maintaining safe and properly managed recreation opportunities for the residents and visitors to Washington state,” he said. “We appreciate their generous donations of equipment which will allow our officers to monitor secluded areas with the use of cameras and to access these remote areas with rafts and personal wading gear.”
In 2019, the Wild Steelhead Coalition donated a collection of trail cameras, spotting scopes and a new raft and oars to the WDFW team responsible for safeguarding the rivers, coastal waters and forests of the Olympic Peninsula and Hood Canal.
Over the following two years, the cameras and raft allowed law enforcement officers to greatly expand their reach and led to increased enforcement against illegal fishing, hunting, logging and other wildlife violations and numerous poaching arrests, state fishing advocates said.
Encouraged by this, the Wild Steelhead Coalition reached out to colleagues at the Wild Salmon Center and Wild Steelheaders United of Trout Unlimited and to associates at Simms, Outcast Boats and Sawyer Paddles & Oars to expand the impact of the original donation with a larger gift in 2021.
The new donation includes a pair of small one-person rafts, multiple sets of waders and boots for game wardens, new oars for an existing drift boat, almost 40 trail and security cameras and a drone.
“We are proud to be collaborating with conservation and industry partners to provide this new equipment to WDFW law enforcement,” Greg Topf, board chair of the Wild Steelhead Coalition, said. “Washington’s game wardens are the first line of defense for the shared, public resources all of us value and want to see safeguarded for the future. We have immense respect for their work and know how much these boats, cameras, and drone will expand their reach and ability to protect wild steelhead and salmon when these key coastal fish populations need it most.
“Our earlier donation meant more poachers were caught and more fish were protected. We can’t wait to see the impacts of this larger set of tools during the coming years.”
Combined, Wild Steelhead Coalition representatives said, the equipment has a value of more than $20,000 and gives law enforcement the ability to survey a much wider geographical area than before — particularly with the addition of the drone.
The donation means cameras can be spread throughout the region, to be used on the Olympic Peninsula, Hood Canal and throughout the Chehalis River Basin; a few will also go to North Puget Sound where they may be deployed on the Skagit and Sauk Rivers and other watersheds depending on the need, fishing advocates said.
The goal, they said, is not only to offer protections for Washington state’s struggling wild steelhead and salmon populations, but also help WDFW teams protect big and small game animals and non-game wildlife, prevent illegal timber harvesting and more.