The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has selected Jim Unsworth, former deputy director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, as the new director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
The commission made its selection from four finalists — narrowed down from eight original candidates — on Saturday (Jan. 10). Unsworth replaces outgoing director Phil Anderson.
Commissioners were looking for “a visionary leader with a strong conservation ethic, sound fiscal-management skills and the expertise to work collaboratively with the commission and the department’s constituents,” according to a press release about the appointment.
Unsworth spent more than 30 years in wildlife management with Idaho Fish and Game and was deputy director for the agency starting in 2008. He previously held several management positions there, including wildlife bureau chief and state big-game manager.
Unsworth has a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management; a master’s degree in fish and wildlife management; and a doctorate in forestry, wildlife and range sciences. He is an avid hunter and fisher.
WDFW manages seven wildlife areas in the Methow Valley and 11 areas in other parts of Okanogan County, as well as dozens of lakes throughout the county. The agency also manages conservation easements for wildlife habitat and agriculture.
The Okanogan County commissioners have questioned the economic impacts of the department’s land acquisitions on the county’s tax base over the past several years. WDFW released an analysis of the impacts of these acquisitions in June 2014. Because the study looks at various cost and revenue projections that compare potential build-out with the costs of providing services to new residents and businesses, the ecological value of WDFW lands, and property-tax revenue versus payments in lieu of taxes, there is no single bottom line in their review.
Okanogan County is still working on its own economic analysis of WDFW acquisitions.
County and state lawmakers are also debating the allocations for payments in lieu of taxes, which were significantly reduced by the Legislature four years ago.