After three years as director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Dr. Jim Unsworth will resign effective Feb. 7.
“This has been a challenging, educational, and often rewarding experience,” Unsworth said in a letter to Commission Chairman Brad Smith. “It is now time for me to pursue other professional and personal goals in wildlife and natural resources management.”
Smith said the Commission will name an interim director as soon as possible and initiate a national search for a replacement.
“Over the last three years, Jim has done an outstanding job of guiding the department through the complex challenges that come with managing natural resources in Washington,” said Smith. “We greatly appreciate his contributions to the department and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Unsworth was named as director of WDFW in 2015 after serving more than 30 years with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, including several years as deputy director.
19th District Representative Jim Walsh and others have been critical of the performance of WDFW under Unsworth’s lead.
Walsh told KXRO after the announcement of the resignation,
“WA Fish & Wildlife is an agency that’s been struggling for years. I’m not certain that changing one position–even one as important as Director–will fix everything that needs to be fixed there. The conversation will continue about how best to reform WDFW. In the meantime, I hope a change at the top will allow opinions and advice from some of the agency’s good frontline people to be heard in Olympia.“
In a release, WDFW says that shortly after taking the lead, Unsworth initiated a multi-year initiative to “strengthen the department’s relationships with communities, increase support for conservation and outdoor recreation, and help ensure WDFW programs and services meet the public’s needs”.
Unsworth expressed his appreciation to WDFW staff members in an email message. “I have had some great experiences as director,” he told them, “but by far the best part of the job has been getting to know many of you. I appreciate your professionalism, work ethic, and passion for fish and wildlife.”