Dec 22, 2021
Washington’s cougars lost a champion

In response to the resignation of Dr. Fred Koontz from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Mountain Lion Foundation offers the following statement:

The bullying and attacks that led Dr. Koontz to resign are the latest and most visible sign of a crisis within Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. A recent report by the State Auditor found that agency staff often feel bullied, and report a pervasive sense that science is not driving decisions. Little wonder that so many staff “described a workplace in which management did not address patterns of unprofessional behavior consistently or effectively,” when this behavior is seen even at the highest level, in the Commission’s public meetings!

The broken culture within WDFW has consequences for wildlife. Agency scientists are bullied into fitting data to pre-existing conclusions, or their findings are simply ignored. One staffer told the Auditor: “It feels like there is a lot of political decisions that happen that are made without a whole lot of attention paid to the data that should be going into those decisions.” Among those decisions: cougar hunt quotas set to unrealistic levels based on “perceived density” despite years of careful statewide research to track actual populations and densities, and a preference for killing carnivores to manage conflict with livestock or game species when other responses are more effective and better for all species.

In the wake of Dr. Koontz’s resignation, Governor Jay Inslee must do more than name a new commissioner. The nine-member body was already operating with one seat left empty for over a year, and another commissioner serving well past the end of his six-year term. Those seats must be filled immediately with commissions who can withstand and repair what Koontz describes as “a politicized quagmire,” and who share Dr. Koontz’s scientific credentials, commitment to science-based decisions, and his passion for the agency’s mission to conserve the wildlife of the Evergreen State.


Josh Rosenau, Conservation Advocate, Region 1

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