5 recreation, conservation projects in [Jefferson] county make state’s priority funding list —

5 recreation, conservation projects in [Jefferson] county make state’s priority funding list

Port Townsend Leader

Five Jefferson County projects could receive state funding if the Legislature takes the advice of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition when it convenes in January 2015.

The coalition – a 25-year-old nonprofit citizens group advocating for the use of state capital construction dollars in protecting habitat, preserving working farms, and creating local and state parks – has requested some $97 million be committed to some 220 project proposals from 34 counties.

The state’s Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) this month endorsed the coalition’s request and ranked 100 of the proposals as priority projects that would be fully funded if the Legislature agrees with a $97 million funding request.

“We know that the outdoors don’t have just an environmental and recreation significance in our state,” said Gov. Jay Inslee on Sept. 23 at the coalition’s annual breakfast. “This is a $22 billion sector in our economy.”

Inslee is preparing his version of a 2015-17 biennial budget and has yet to announce what funding level he would support for such projects.

In the last biennium, Inslee requested that the Legislature spend $75 million on such projects, more than any governor to date, after the coalition requested it spend $90 million. The Legislature actually funded $65 million, benefiting more than 80 projects.

“Gov. Inslee understands the importance of preserving our state’s natural heritage,” said Joanna Grist, executive director of the coalition. “Investing in the outdoors now would continue to pay dividends for decades to come. Communities across Washington need forward-thinking leadership from Olympia this year as our population increases and demand for outdoor recreation and conservation continues to grow.”

If the Legislature commits to the coalition’s requested $97 million, five of seven applications for projects in Jefferson County would be fully funded.

CHIMACUM, DABOB, HOH

Those projects include: Jefferson Land Trust’s $962,450 plan to preserve Chimacum’s historic Bishop Dairy with a conservation easement; the Nature Conservancy’s $1,977,083 plan to protect 720 acres of salmon habitat along the Queets and Clearwater rivers; the state Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) $3,240,955 plan to protect Dabob Bay shoreline to improve water quality for shellfish and U.S. Navy activities in Hood Canal; the DNR’s plan to acquire 585 acres of salmon habitat along three miles of the Queets River; and the Nature Conservancy’s $2,624,400 plan to protect 1,300 acres, including 900 acres of riparian forest and wetland habitat along the Hoh River.

Two other projects could receive funding if a better ranked project were to fall through. They are Jefferson County’s $500,000 plan to complete construction of an Olympic Discovery Trail segment at Discovery Bay, and the Jefferson Land Trust’s $590,902 plan to purchase a conservation easement to protect 95 acres of pastureland in Quilcene for a farm center.

The outdoor recreation economy supports 227,000 jobs in Washington alone and acts as a significant quality-of-life attractor for highly skilled workers in fields such as technology and aerospace.

The coalition’s grant program is funded through state bonds in the capital construction budget.

Two-thirds of Washingtonians participate in outdoor recreation each year, and all residents rely on conservation to ensure access to clean water and locally grown produce. The state’s population is expected to increase by 2 million by 2040, putting increased pressure on natural resources.

“We thank Gov. Inslee for his foresight in supporting robust conservation funding,” Grist said. “He was the first governor since Mike Lowry to propose a higher level than the Legislature for this critical program. Inslee has proven that he understands the connection between our outdoors and economic vitality.”

Read the complete story at Port Townsend Leader
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