EDITORIAL: Conservation pays us back
It is an investment. Conservation of precious land in its natural state, construction of trails and parks for recreation or access, preservation of wildlife habitat or farmland — they fit the definition. They all involve the commitment of funds with expectation of a return. Call it a profit if you like.
Conservation pays. It pays dividends. We in Washington, surrounded by so much natural wealth, know this very well. Our riches are envied the world over. Open space, wild land, beautiful shores, grand vistas, magnificent peaks and rich valleys — every day we reap the rewards of wise investments past.
There is much more to be done, accounts to refill, legacies to protect. As we near 2015 and legislative budget-making, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition has asked the Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee to commit $97 million to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program in the coming capital budget. They are persuasive. Even in an age when there are rivals for every appropriation and every public dollar is precious, there is the overriding fact that money invested in conservation boosts our economy and our collective well-being.
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program is funded by state bonds. It provides grants for state and local parks, trails, farmland preservation, conservation easements and other projects. Projects are ranked by independent experts. Local matching funds must be provided. Nothing rides on political connections. Local commitment must be strong and tangible.
We in North Central Washington still take our dividends. Projects like the Wenatchee foothills, the Peshastin Pinnacles State Park, Rotary Park, Camas Meadows, Cashmere Pool, Beebe Springs natural area and trail, Douglas County shrub steppe restoration, the riverfront trail extension, Stemilt Basin conservation, Saddle Rock acquisition, Twisp Community Trail, Brewster soccer fields, Methow Valley trail system, Oroville Deep Bay Park, Winthrop park and ice rink — all gain support from the Wildlife and Recreation Program, and there are a great many more.
Proposed 2015 projects that may be funded: Cashmere’s Riverside Park, Saddle Rock and Sage Hills gateways, Hale Park on the Columbia riverfront, Department of Fish and Wildlife Mid Columbia/Grand Coulee shrub steppe preservation, Tunk Valley preservation, Twisp Community Trail — and many others.
True, $97 million is a great deal of money, up from $65 million in this biennium, but not beyond historic peaks. And there will be profits. They can be measured in jobs, taxes and economic growth. Conservation pays us back. We know.
This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Publisher Rufus Woods, Editor Cal FitzSimmons and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner.