State Fish & Wildlife Mission Statements Purpose for Existing

Every organization should have a purpose, a reason for being, a mission. That mission should be expressed in their Mission Statement.  State Game Agencies were originally created to protect “valuable” species that were disappearing due to overharvesting. They were also created to destroy “undesirable” vermin, pests and predators, but have evolved into agencies that are focused more on natural resources instead of just game species and now are responsible for protecting non-game, sensitive and endangered species, including species they once attempted to eradicate.

Why does this matter? It matters because our State Wildlife Agencies have the primary responsibility for managing and conserving our fish and wildlife resources. If they screw up, then the Federal Government will take over under the Endangered Species Act, but we should hope this never happens.

Take a look at your State’s Mission Statement (see table below) to read their purpose for existing in their own words.

  • What are the responsibilities of your State Wildlife Agency?
  • Does your State’s Mission Statement have clear prioritized goals and objectives?
  • Does it include long-term protection?
  • Is their purpose and goals what you previously thought?
  • How would you grade them on accomplishing their mission?
  • How would you change the mission?

State Fish and Wildlife Agency Mission Statements

State Mission Statement
 AK To conserve & enhance Alaska’s wildlife & habitats & provide for a wide range of public uses & benefits
 AL To manage, protect, conserve & enhance the wildlife & aquatic resources of Alabama for the sustainable benefit of the people of Alabama
 AR To wisely manage all the fish & wildlife resources of Arkansas while providing maximum enjoyment for the people
 AZ To conserve, enhance & restore Arizona’s diverse wildlife resources & habitats through aggressive protection & management programs & to provide wildlife resources & safe watercraft & off-highway vehicle recreation for the enjoyment, appreciation and use by present and future generations
 CA To manage Cal.’s diverse fish, wildlife & plant resources & the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values & for their use & enjoyment by the public
 CO To perpetuate the wildlife resources of the state, to provide a quality state parks system & to provide enjoyable & sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities that educate & inspire current & future generations to serve a active stewards of Colorado
 CT To conserve,improve and protect the air, water & other natural resources & the environment in order to enhance the health, safety & welfare of the people
 DE To conserve & manage Delaware’s fish & wildlife resources, provide safe & enjoyable fishing, hunting & boating opportunities to citizens & visitors & improve the public’s understanding & interest in the state’s fish & wildlife resources
 FL Managing fish & wildlife resources for their long-term well-being & the benefit of people
 GA To sustain, enhance, protect & conserve Georgia’s natural, historic & cultural resources for present & future generations, while recognizing the importance of promoting the development of commerce & industry that utilize sound environmental practices
 HI To responsibly manage & protect watersheds, native ecosystems & cultural resources & provide outdoor recreation & sustainable forest products opportunities, while facilitating partnerships, community involvement & education. Ma-lama i ka aina (Caring for the Land)
 IA To conserve & enhance our natural resources in cooperation with individuals & organizations to improve the quality of life for Iowans & ensure a legacy for future generations
 ID All wildlife …shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated & managed…by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect & perpetuate such wildlife & provide for the citizens of this state &, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing & trapping
 IL To provide leadership with the restoration, management & protection of wildlife populations & their habitats for the purposes of providing citizens & visitors of Illinois with a quality environment, a state rich in wildlife diversity, compatible recreational opportunities & responsible oversight of the public’s wildlife
 IN To professionally manage Indiana’s fish & wildlife for present & future generations, balancing ecological, recreational & economic benefits
 KS Conserve & enhance Kansas natural heritage, its wildlife & its habitats-to assure future generations the benefits of the state’s diverse, living resources;Provide the public with opportunities for the use & appreciation of the natural resources… consistent with the conservation of those resources;Inform the public of the status of the natural resources of Kansas to promote understanding & gain assistance in achieving this mission
 KY To conserve & enhance fish & wildlife resources & provide opportunity for hunting, fishing, trapping, boating & other wildlife related activities
 LA To preserve & enhance the nonrenewable natural resources of the state, consisting of land, water, oil, gas & other minerals, through conservation, regulation, management & development to ensure that the state of Louisiana realizes appropriate economic benefit from its asset base
 MA To protect, promote & enhance our common wealth of natural, cultural & recreational resources for the well-being of all
 MD Securing a sustainable future for our environment, society & economy by preserving, protecting, restoring & enhancing the State’s natural resources
 ME On the protection & enhancement of the state’s inland fisheries & wildlife, while at the same time providing for the wise use of these resources. Assuring the conservation & use of these resources is vital to the state’s economy
 MI Committed to the conservation, protection, management, use & enjoyment of the state’s natural & cultural resources for current & future generations
 MN To work with citizens to conserve & manage the state’s natural resources, to provide outdoor recreation opportunities & to provide for commercial uses of natural resources in a way that creates a sustainable quality of life
 MO To protect & manage the forest, fish & wildlife resources of the state; to facilitate & provide opportunity for all citizens to use, enjoy & learn about these resources
 MS To conserve & enhance Mississippi’s wildlife, fisheries & parks, provide quality outdoor recreation & engage the public in natural resource conservation
 MT Provides for the stewardship of the fish, wildlife, parks & recreational resources of Montana while contributing to the quality of life for present & future generations
 NC To conserve North Carolina’s wildlife resources & their habitats & provide programs & opportunities that allow hunters, anglers, boaters;other outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy wildlife-associated recreation
 ND To protect, conserve & enhance fish & wildlife populations & their habitat for sustained public consumptive & non-consumptive use
 NE Stewardship of the state’s fish, wildlife, park & outdoor recreation resources in the best long-term interests of the people & those resources
 NH As the guardian of the state’s fish, wildlife & marine resources… Conserve, manage & protect these resources & their habitats; Inform & educate the public about these resources & Provide the public with opportunities to use & appreciate these resources
 NJ To protect & manage the State’s fish & wildlife to maximize their long-term biological, recreational & economic values for all New Jerseyans
 NM To provide & maintain an adequate supply of wildlife & fish within New Mexico by utilizing a flexible management system that provides for their protection, propagation, regulation, conservation & for their use as public recreation
 NV To protect, preserve, manage & restore wildlife & its habitat for their aesthetic, scientific, educational, recreational & economic benefits to citizens of Nevada & U.S.
 NY To conserve, improve & protect New York’s natural resources & environment & to prevent, abate & control water, land & air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety & welfare of the people of the state & their overall economic & social well-being
 OH To conserve & improve fish & wildlife resources & their habitats for sustainable use & appreciation by all
 OK Management, protection & enhancement of wildlife resources & habitat for the scientific, educational, recreational, aesthetic & economic benefits to present & future generations of citizens & visitors to Oklahoma
 OR To protect & enhance Oregon’s fish & wildlife & their habitats for use & enjoyment by present & future generations
 PA To manage all wild birds, wild mammals & their habitats for current & future generations
 RI To ensure that the Freshwater, Marine & Wildlife resources of… Rhode Island will be conserved & managed for equitable & sustainable use
 SC Protects, manages & enhances the state’s habitats & associated wildlife for the public benefit of present & future generations
 SD Manage South Dakota’s wildlife & fisheries resources & their associated habitats for their sustained & equitable use & for the benefit, welfare & enjoyment of the citizens of this state & its visitors
 TN To preserve, conserve, manage, protect & enhance the fish & wildlife of the state & their habitats for the use, benefit & enjoyment of the citizens of Tennessee & its visitors
 TX To manage & conserve the natural & cultural resources of Texas & to provide hunting, fishing & outdoor recreation opportunities for the use & enjoyment of present & future generations
 UT Our mission is to serve the people of Utah as trustee & guardian of the state’s wildlife
 VA To manage Virgina’s wildlife & inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth; to provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife…
 VT To protect & conserve our fish, wildlife, plants & their habitats for the people of Vermont
 WA To preserve, protect & perpetuate fish, wildlife & ecosystems while providing sustainable fish & wildlife recreational & commercial opportunities
 WI To protect & enhance our natural resources: our air, land & water; our wildlife, fish & forests & the ecosystems that sustain all life. To provide a healthy, sustainable environment & a full range of outdoor opportunities. To ensure the right of all people to use & enjoy these resources in their work and leisure. To work with people to understand each other’s views & to carry out the public will. & in this partnership consider the future and generations to follow
 WV A long range comprehensive program for the exploration, conservation, development, protection, enjoyment & use of the natural resources of West Virginia
 WY Promote & maintain the availability of high quality habitat to sustain & enhance wildlife populations in the future

Note: For brevity and to save space in the table, I have used the “&” for each case of the word “and” and have left out some non-specific “filler” words and punctuation. Missions Statements will change over time, but I believe these Missions Statements to be current and accurate at the time of publication.

Common Themes among State Wildlife Mission Statements

Levels of Wildlife Management: Maintain, Improve or Restore Population

In their missions statements, 40 states use terms like “conserve”, “preserve, “protect” or “maintain” which implies the status of wildlife in their charge are basically in good shape and only need to be preserved. Twenty-three states use terms like “enhance” or “improve”, which indicates habitats need to be improved or wildlife populations need to be increased. Only four states (AZ, IL, MD & NV) use the term “restore” which is an admission that habitats or populations are in need of restoration.

Note: The term “Preserve” used by five states, does not imply to keep resources in a pristine or unimpaired state as does the U.S. National Park Service.

US Park Service Mission: “The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world”.

Wildlife for Future Generations?

Only 30 of 50 states imply a long term promise of maintaining habitats or populations with specific terms like “future”, “future generations”, “long-term”, “long-range”, “perpetuate”, “sustain” or “ensure”. Fourteen states use the term “future generations”. Six additional states (AR, CO, MT, NE ,NH & UT) imply this long term planning with their use of the terms “trustee”, “guardian”, “steward” or “wise managment” as is consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine for wildlife.

Recreational and Commercial Benefits of  Wildlife

Thirty-six states recognize the recreational benefit of hunting and fishing for people with the use of words like “benefit”, “enjoyment”, “recreation” or “use”. In addition, 12 states specifically mention economic importance of fish and wildlife withe the terms “economic”, “commercial”, “equitable use” and “work”.

Save the Habitat, Save the Wildlife

No question that all 50 State Wildlife Agencies understand the importance of protecting ecosystems and habitats in order to insure the long-term survival of wildlife species, but only 21 states specifically use these words (“habitat” or “ecosystem”) in their mission statements.

Non-recreational Human Benefits of Wildlife

We no longer consider consumption as the only benefit of fish and wildlife. It may be implied in some mission statements, but only two states (NV & OK) specifically mention the aesthetic value or natural beauty of our Natural Resources.  Six states (IA, MA, MN, MT, NY & SD) recognize the importance of our Natural Resources for “quality of life”, “Social well being” or “human welfare” and six different states recognize the importance of Natural Resources for scientific and educational purposes.

Do Employees know the Mission?

As a former employee of a state wildlife agency, I used to carry a card in my wallet with our Mission Statement. Until I was given that card, I don’t know if our agency had a mission statement or not.  While I was compiling each state’s mission statement in the table above, I had to contact several States because their mission statements were not easy to find. The employees I contacted didn’t know their mission statements either. Why not? Good question. I’m sure most state employees know the purpose of their particular job, but I’ll bet most don’t know the mission of their organization.

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