Wildlife & Recreation Coalition applauds restoration of conservation program
The Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, which brings together 280 corporate and non-profit partners, applauded the bipartisan compromise which restored funding to all parts of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP). A previous proposal eliminated funding for most conservation projects which provide critical public access for hiking, camping, hunting and fishing. The final compromise invests $55 million in the WWRP and funds all parts of the grant program. A complete list of WWRP funded projects is available HERE.
“Over the last 25 years the WWRP grant program has invested over a billion dollars in projects that preserve our great outdoors, benefit local communities and help get Washingtonians outside,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director of the Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “We are grateful that legislative leaders preserved the program’s even-handed approach which ensures that the best proposals receive public funds. Safeguarding this program is an investment in an outdoor recreation economy that supports nearly 200,000 jobs in Washington.”
The $55 million is a smaller allocation to WWRP than in prior biennia – down from $65 million in the last budget. The group expressed concern about the reduction. The WWRP grant program is the state’s principle vehicle for investing in outdoor recreation and conservation, is the only source of farmland preservation in the state budget, and is the prime mechanism for funding projects based on a nonpartisan, merit-based ranking. The reduction leaves several important projects unfunded across the state, but still provides support for 70 valuable projects that support recreation in local spaces and the great outdoors.
The capital construction budget includes a proviso calling for a WWRP stakeholder program review to be hosted by the Recreation and Conservation Office. The legislature appropriated $60,000 for a process to be concluded by December 1.
Said Grist: “The Coalition has long been committed to a broad, stakeholder review for this vital grant program. We firmly believe that even the most effective programs need to be updated occasionally to continue serving the needs of the state. We will actively participate in the review and are optimistic that the process can make sure all voices are heard and that this program will be ready for 25 more years of success.”
Some project highlights funded by the $55 million appropriation for the program include:
- An expansion of Springbrook Park in Lakewood to add new amenities including trails, all abilities play equipment, a family picnic area, and a community garden,
- Preservation of land along the Mashel River to expand the Mashel Greenbelt Trail, protect a key section of the popular Mount Tahoma Trails public cross-country ski trail, and protect water quality in this important salmon habitat,
- Construction of day use facilities at Kukutali Preserve to include new trails, picnic areas, and other facilities to develop the preserve into an education and wildlife viewing destination.