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Times are tough and the agency responsible for preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting and other recreation opportunities is feeling the pinch.

With Washington’s economy struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state department of Fish and Wildlife has implented agency-wide furloughs for the next two Fridays.

While public safety-related needs will remain staffed, most other Fish and Wildlife services, including customer service, will be unavailable.

Regional offices as well as the Olympia headquarters office remain closed to the public. Staff will not be available for walk-in services but are available by telephone.

Additional furlough days are expected to occur this fall as the state faces a budget shortfall over the next several years as a result of closures and impacts from the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has already affected nearly every aspect of day-to-day life in Washington," said Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind. "And our hardworking staff have certainly been feeling those impacts, too."

Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers will remain on duty, while other staff members will adjust schedules to ensure that essential services — such as port sampling and hatchery functions — continue during scheduled furloughs.

The majority of the departments, however, will be operating at 80% of normal capacity this month, which affects many ongoing projects and operations.

And the outlook gets bleaker.

In addition to the reductions already in place, Fish and Wildlife has identified $12.8 million in reductions to the state Office of Financial Management for the upcoming fiscal year and is initiating plans for further reductions.

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