THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz sees the potential for serious problems in Washington State if President Trump’s proposed federal budget is adopted.
“This budget undercuts our environment, our economy and our culture. It sabotages decades of Puget Sound restoration, removes protections from our forests and threatens the long-term security of our communities,” the Commissioner said Thursday.
STORM CLOUDS LOOM OVER PUGET SOUND AND A KAYAK ANGLER OFF WHIDBEY ISLAND DURING JULY 2015. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
The American people own 12,705,335 acres of Washington State, 28 percent of all the land, 44 percent of forests. Federal investment in those lands helps ensure our environment is safe, our public is protected, and we have rural employment opportunities.
Budget threatens Puget Sound
Among the more startling reductions in the budget are those that would affect Puget Sound, the nation’s largest estuary. President Trump’s budget cuts $28 million dollars of funding dedicated to Puget Sound recovery in the EPA’s Puget Sound Geographic Program, halting efforts to expand wetlands, restore flood plains and remove barriers to fish passage in the 10,000 streams that drain into the Sound.
The Sound is the center of Washington’s $21 billion maritime industry that employs some 69,500 people. More than $80 billion in annual trade flows in and out through its ports, it attracts tourists and trade opportunities from all over the world and sustains a $1 billion fishing and shellfish industry, fueling local economies all along our state’s western coastline. All of those opportunities and industries need healthy water to survive.
Further, this proposed budget zeros out $63 million dollars for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) vital Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund. This cut undoes decades of work to restore wild fish runs, work required by the Endangered Species Act. Since this fund was started in 2000, 2 of the 15 salmon and steelhead populations listed under the Endangered Species Act are almost to their recovery goals. Failure to recover these endangered runs jeopardizes the future of our state’s $1 billion-plus recreational fishing industry, a hit which would be felt all over our state.
The proposed budget also jeopardizes long-standing partnerships. The Puget Sound Partnership matches $9.9 million from the E.P.A.’s National Estuary Program with $7.5 million state dollars to prioritize and achieve projects that make our water, our habitat, and our people healthier. The partnership leverages that money to gather further funding from tribes, local governments and non-government organizations and $1.4 million from NOAA.
Discontinues important research
Through its research, education and technical expertise, the Washington Sea Grant has contributed more than $49 million to Washington’s economy. The proposed budget cuts to NOAA would rob the program of 90 percent of its funding, taking away critical expertise in sustainable fishing and aquaculture from our fishermen and shellfish growers.
Further cuts to NOAA include the National Estuarine Research Reserve system, through which the state has been able to protect the 8,000-acre bed of eelgrass at Padilla Bay, one of the largest in the nation. This is critical habitat that provides the foundation for Puget Sound’s food web, providing habitat for herring and smelt that feed our salmon, shorebirds and iconic orcas. Developing research also shows eelgrass, like that which covers Padilla Bay, can be an important part of adapting to acidifying marine waters, a vital tool in coping with the effects of climate change along our coastline.
Funding vital to shellfish industry
Washington’s shellfish growers export much of the clams, oysters and our famous geoduck – harvested from Washington tidelands – to overseas markets. Our largest geoduck importer, China, sets strict water quality standards in order to accept Washington shellfish. In 2013 China refused to accept Washington geoducks and if that happened again, it could cripple our state’s shellfish industry.
By turning its back on efforts to restore the health of Puget Sound, the Trump administration is putting Washington’s shellfish industry at grave risk. This budget harms local shellfish farmers, the communities in which they live and the ability for the state to generate restoration revenue. This year alone, the Department of Natural Resources generated $25 million dollars in funds used to restore Washington’s waterways from the sale of wild geoduck harvested from state-owned aquatic lands.
Inadequate forest protection
Washington’s oceans, fish and marine trade aren’t the only ones to suffer under this proposed budget. This budget puts our citizens in jeopardy by failing to address the problem of “fire borrowing” in the U.S. Forest Service. In fiscal year 2015, the Forest Service had to use $700 million intended for other programs to pay for wildfire suppression.
By setting the Forest Service’s firefighting budget at the average of the past 10 years, choosing to ignore the reality of the new mega fires we are seeing, especially in Washington State, the administration is basing the protection of our forests on already inadequate spending levels and fails to address the fire borrowing problem.
Washington State and the 100,000 people that work in the forest industry need the Forest Service to have a secure, steady source of funding for forest restoration. Washington has 2.7 million acres of forests that are very vulnerable to fire as disease, drought and insect damage makes them vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires, and half of those at-risk forests are federal forests.
“I urge our congressional delegation to use the spending control the U.S. Constitution provides them to reject the unnecessary and drastic spending cuts put forth by the President’s administration and pass a federal spending plan that honors the promises our federal government has made to the people of our state,” said Commissioner Franz.