Angler Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation: The Future of Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation

Chapter 13. Fish and Wildlife Agency Transformation to Adapt to a Changing World

Christopher Serenari and J. Warren Schlechte

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874738.ch13

Over the past century, U.S. fish and wildlife agencies have worked to conserve the nation’s natural resources. And while these activities have produced many successes (see Chapter 1), it is now recognized that novel societal and ecological changes require new ways of thinking and broader coalitions. There is evidence that agencies are pursuing unprecedented reform (Jacobson et al. 2007). Change to agency form and function may be in response to increased demand for the expansion of state fish and wildlife agency services (Lauricella et al. 2017); the rise in the number of endangered species and habitat loss; challenges to traditional or status quo management philosophies; organizational and policy legitimacy gaps; and declining interest in foundational aspects of the traditional fish and wildlife institution (i.e., “all customs, practices, organizations and agencies, policies, and laws with respect to wildlife” [Decker et al. 2016:290]), specifically, fishing and hunting (Jacobson et al. 2007; USFWS 2018). There has also been an increase in the popularity and political power of organizations that represent the interests of so-called “nontraditional” fish and wildlife constituencies (e.g., wildlife watchers [Manfredo et al. 2003], animal rights advocates). Additionally, stakeholders have found utility of political projects (e.g., referendum) to alter or circumvent traditional authority over state trust of fish and wildlife resources (Williamson 1998; Nie 2004). These novel societal and organizational dynamics led Ed Carter, former president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), to pose the question and rejoinder to his colleagues: “Are we still relevant to the people we serve? If the answer to that question is ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ then we may need to seriously evaluate what we are doing, how we are doing it and for whom we are doing it” (AFWA 2019).