Proposed budgets in Legislature far apart on land purchases
State wildlife officials plan to ensure public access continues across Manastash Ridge, provided they can close on a land purchase backed by a bipartisan coalition and a citizen panel of experts.
The state House’s proposed capital budget would fund the third and final purchase of the Heart of the Cascades project, in which timber giant Plum Creek would sell roughly 8 1/2 square miles of Taneum-area forest to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The state Senate’s proposed budget, though, doesn’t fund it.
And that snub was intentional.
“I’m very concerned about state agencies purchasing land and then not maintaining it,” said state Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, author of the Senate’s capital budget. “I’d probably have to except the Department of Natural Resources from that statement; they’re probably the best property managers of the three (Natural Resources, Wildlife and State Parks).
“Fish and Wildlife is probably the worst.”
While the proposed House budget would funnel $70 million into state Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) projects, the Senate budget calls for just $39.6 million, the lowest level in the WWRP’s 24-year history.
The Heart of the Cascades project was so highly prioritized — No. 1 on the WWRP’s Critical Habitat list — that it would be funded even at the Senate’s lower total, provided the budget adhered to the coalition’s ranking process.
It did not.
Read the rest of the story at the Yakima Herald-Republic.