THE ORIGINS OF WATCHABLE WILDLIFE
The term Watchable Wildlife was coined by Bob
Mace, Deputy Director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
(ODFW), in 1979 after the Oregon Legislature gave ODFW management authority for 'non-game' wildlife. The phrase permanently changed the way many people
think of small animals from robins and raccoons to salamanders,
frogs, and butterflies. Until that time, the most common term available
to describe wildlife not sought after by hunters was "non-game." Mace,
a 1942 graduate of the then Department of Fish and Wildlife Management
at Oregon State University, felt there should be a more positive
term for these species whose appeal to nature lovers and photographers
seemed to call for greater respect.
Original lapel pin. Illustration by
Sharon Torvik, ODFW staff artist
Early years in Oregon
While the Oregon Legislature gave authority to ODFW to manage watchable wildlife, that authority did not come with increased revenue. Consequently, each year from 1979-1981, ODFW designed, marketed and sold a button and poster featuring a species of watchable wildlife. The first design featured a raccoon (shown on right). Proceeds were used to fund the Watchable Wildlife program, but sales were inconsistent.
In 1981, the Oregon legislature passed the 'non-game' tax check-off program. Oregon was second in the nation, behind Colorado, to adopt this kind of revenue generating program. The legislature also added some general fund money to the wildlife management budget for 'non-game' management activities. Neither funding source allowed use of the money for creating or enhancing viewing, interpretive or other appreciative uses. With the nongame tax check-off promising a reasonable return and some general fund money to support traditional nongame wildlife management activities, the fledgling button and poster campaign was discontinued.
Early on, it became clear that 'Watchable Wildlife' was not simply about non-game species management, it was really about non-consumptive use of all wildlife. With this recognition and with the transfer of the Watchable Wildlife program from ODFW's wildlife division to it's Information and Education Division (headed by Cliff Hamilton), the Watchable Wildlife Program in Oregon began to develop.
The First Wildlife Viewing Guide In Oregon
The first Oregon Watchable Wildlife viewing guide was created by Cliff Hamilton and then University of Oregon graduate student Kathy Walsh. It included 30 sites. The first printing of 800 copies flew quickly off the shelf. Although never reprinted, the guide demonstrated the interest among Oregon citizens for non-consumptive wildlife activities. This guide was the precursor to an expanded series of viewing guides for many states (see below). Additionally, the legacy of this first Oregon guide includes the origin of the binocular symbol (see right) that Kathy created to identify wildlife viewing sites. That symbol has been adopted nationally and is one of the most recognizable icons of Watchable Wildlife.
Watchable Wildlife Nationally
The name first came to national prominence in 1981, when Bob Mace distributed 100 lapel pins that advocated the new name to leading state and federal wildlife administrators in attendance at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Washington DC.
This action brought the concept of Watchable
Wildlife to the national stage. In 1986, a presidential commission
on the outdoors listed nature recreation as a key activity among Americans.
This led to increased national awareness and provided support for
federal agencies to develop Watchable Wildlife programs.
In 1988, Defenders
of Wildlife initiated a project in Oregon
to expand on the a statewide viewing network and wildlife viewing guide orginally produced by ODFW. In cooperation with
the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U. S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Oregon Tourism
Division over 100 sites were identified and included in the new version of Oregon wildlife viewing guide.
As with the first book, the Oregon
wildlife guide was an immediate success, and many additional states followed with guides of their own.
As of 2005, guides had been completed for 39 states. The culmination
of independent efforts by various state and federal agencies during
the 1980's to develop programs in Watchable Wildlife came in 1990
when a Memorandum
of Understanding was signed that formed a framework for cooperation
among agencies to develop information and activities related to
Watchable Wildlife. As in Oregon, nationally this term quickly came to refer
to any species huntable, fishable, or not, that people sought to
enjoy in a non-consumptive manner.
Back in Oregon
After a lull in activities surrounding Watchable Wildlife during the late 1980s and 1990s in Oregon, things have picked up with the internet providing a natural vehicle for sharing information on Watchable Wildlife in Oregon. ODFW maintains resources dedicated to wildlife viewing on their web site including a list of sites to visit by region in Oregon. ODFW has also expanded to include a presence on facebook. Funding Watchable Wildlife programs in Oregon and around the country continues to be a challenge as most agencies continue to look for acceptable mechanisms to generate revenue from the growing number of people that pursue non-consumptive uses for wildlife.
The Mace Legacy
In 1994 Bob and his wife, Phyllis, began making annual gifts to support a faculty position and scholarships in Watchable Wildlife in the Fisheries and Wildlife Department at Oregon State University. Preceded in death by Phyllis, Bob Mace passed away in November 2006. Their estate gift expanded their legacy by creating an endowment for the Bob and Phyllis Mace Watchable Wildlife Chair as well as endowing a scholarship fund for OSU students majoring in fish and wildlife. The holder of the Mace chair, appointed for a five-year term, receives flexible resources to use for research and outreach, furthering the work Bob championed throughout his life.
Phyllis and Bob Mace