Washington State Sens. Propose $90M For Habitat, Rec, $10M More Than House, But Both Less Than Gov.

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON WILDLIFE AND RECREATION COALITION

The Senate capital construction budget released today includes $90 million in funding for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP). This funding level is a $10 million increase over the last biennium’s capital budget and an equal increase over the House’s proposed budget.

BOTH WASHINGTON HOUSE AND SENATE BILLS WOULD PROVIDE $4 MILLION TO PURCHASE 7 SQUARE MILES OF LAND IN THE COWICHE WATERSHED WEST OF YAKIMA FOR CRITTER HABITAT AND TO PROTECT 7 MILES OF STEELHEAD STREAMS, BUT OVERALL, THE LOWER CHAMBER’S PROPOSED CAPITAL BUDGET IS $10 MILLION LIGHTER THAN THE UPPER CHAMBER’S. (RCO)

“We recognize that it is an incredibly difficult budget year, with many competing priorities, and we are grateful the Senate made the WWRP a priority in this budget,” said Christine Mahler, Executive Director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, an independent nonprofit advocate for the WWRP. “Outdoor space, whether for recreating, wildlife habitat, farming, or just communing is critical for the health and wellbeing of our human and animal neighbors in this vibrant region.”

The WWRP is the state’s premier grant program for habitat conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities. The program has played a significant role in our state’s landscape and quality of life, investing over $1.4 billion into state and local parks, trails, wildlife habitat, working lands, and other community priorities across the state.

Robust funding for the WWRP is more important than ever as our state’s population growth has accelerated in recent years. WWRP projects mitigate the impacts of rapid population growth, create outdoor opportunities for families across the state, preserve wildlife habitat, and protect working lands.

Governor Inslee’s capital budget proposed $115 million for the WWRP. The House budget, released Monday, funds the program at $80 million, equaling the amount included in the 2017-2019 capital construction budget.

“The Senate budget, at $90 million, is closer to the level of investment needed for this critical program, which fuels the state’s $26.2 billion outdoor recreation economy—a bigger sector than aerospace or technology,” noted Christine. “We encourage the House and Senate to keep this in mind as they negotiate, adopting the Senate level or even consider increasing the funding beyond $90 million in order to meet the outdoor recreation and environmental demands of their constituents.”

WWRP funding will be allocated via a nationally-recognized impartial ranking process, ensuring that funds are used fairly and for the best projects from throughout the state. The Senate version keeps all segments of the state-wide Palouse to Cascades Trail in their funding list, recognizing that regional trails have distinct importance beyond their local district boundaries.

The Senate budget would fund 125 projects across the state, including:

  • Acquisition of 71.8 acres on Merrill Lake, preserving old growth forest and protecting habitat for deer, elk, waterfowl, songbirds, raptors, and others and preserving this cherished fly-fishing opportunity for anglers.
  • Renovating South Lynnwood Park in south Snohomish County. This project in the heart of the city’s most underserved area will transform a rundown under-programmed area into a community treasure driven by the needs of the community, including a playground, picnic shelter, bike station, tennis courts, native habitat area with educational signage, walking paths, and more.
  • Completion of the 25-mile long Ferry County Rail Trail in northeast Washington, connecting Republic to Canada along an abandoned railroad line, connecting communities and bringing in visitors.

However, funding the program at just $90 million will exclude projects of local import to communities across the state, including:

  • Development of a railroad bridge and trail to Meadowdale Beach Park in Snohomish County, to improve beach access and address safety concerns in the community.
  • Improvements to Nespelem Community Park on the Colville Reservation, creating a much-needed recreation opportunity for youth and families.
  • Acquisition of land and shoreline near Lake Kapowsin in Pierce County, to improve habitat for salmon and waterfowl and provide fishing opportunities.

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