4-0, Simcoe, Heart of Cascades projects unfunded in WA Senate budget proposal
Three big, highly ranked fish, wildlife and recreational access projects didn’t make a state Senate budget proposal released this morning.
It sets up a conflict with the already-passed House’s Capital Budget , which does provide $4 million for the continued purchase of the 4-0 Ranch in Asotin County and $3 million for the beginnings of a 18,000-acre timberland buy in the Simcoe Mountains of eastern Klickitat County.
The upper chamber also left out the Heart of the Cascades project in Central Washington, the ongoing multi-organizational effort benefiting wildlife and habitat and putting scattered blocks of land into management by single agencies.
The trio were ranked as three of the four most critically important habitat projects in 2014.
While noting that the Senate’s $68 million proposal for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program did come pretty close to matching Gov. Jay Inslee’s request and is only $7 million below the House’s already passed capital budget, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition took umbrage that high-ranking projects were left out.
“While offering a high level of funding, the proposal rejects the integrity of the (WWRP) by cherry picking categories and projects to receive funding,” WWRC said in a press release. “The Senate budget eliminates high-ranked critical habitat, urban wildlife, natural areas, and State Parks projects that are necessary for securing recreational access for hikers, hunters, anglers, and other users of our great outdoors. The move ignores the statute and objective ranking criteria that have made WWRP a nationally recognized program, replacing it with earmarks for favored projects and categories. If passed, it would circumvent established law for the first time in the 25-year history of the program.”
The state Capital Budget, which is separate from the Operating Budget, is the funding mechanism to “acquire and maintain state buildings, public schools, higher education facilities, public lands, parks, and other assets” through the sale of bonds.
In recent years there has been increasing pushback in rural counties over the state buying up land, and there was a suggestion in late March that we might see a different take on acquisitions from the Senate, which is controlled by the GOP.
Seventeen House Republicans introduced HB 2215, which would bar state agencies from acquiring any more land until changes in education funding demanded by a state Supreme Court decision are met.
The Daily Astorian reported “Carrie Shaw, spokeswoman for the mostly Republican caucus that controls the Senate, said the land purchases are being paused for two years to divert money toward a backlog of construction for the program.”
The Senate and House project budgets do fund improvements to a number of Puget Sound hatcheries affected by a lawsuit last year.
Assuming the Senate passes its capital budget, it would have to be reconciled with the House’s (which passed 96-2) before going to Governor Inslee’s desk.