EDITORIAL: River canyon purchase up for funding
The Yakima River Canyon is one of Kittitas County’s strongest assets — environmentally and economically.
As such, the preservation and maintenance of the canyon landscape remains a vital community concern.
This winter county residents can advocate for further preservation of the canyon by supporting a funding request from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition before the state Legislature.
The coalition is seeking $90 million for a statewide list of projects. If the request is fully funded, it will include money for Kittitas County projects, including acquisition of 700 acres in the Bighorn Umtanum region of the Yakima River Canyon, as well as money to purchase development rights for the Green Ranch owned by Pat Deneen outside of Ellensburg so the property will remain a working farm.
Jill Scheffer of Forterra, one of the groups that is part of the coalition, said the canyon acquisition would ensure the land would not be developed and also increase public access to the river. She added the owners of the land approached her to see if there was a way to preserve the property.
New boat launches that help manage and direct existing use of the river are needed. As county residents know, the Yakima River is extremely busy with people coming here to float on warm, summer days. Developed launches in safe locations that allow greater flexibility in the amount of time a person spends on the river would be a significant asset.
Scheffer said the reality of the state funding process is West Side projects often come first, especially when budgets are tight. There is a high value to this project for Kittitas County, but the Legislature will need to fully fund the statewide request for the local project to be funded.
Every year, at least for the past several years, is a tough year for state funding, but given a willing seller and an opportunity to complete a purchase that will make a difference, it is worthwhile for county residents to support full funding of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation program.
Volunteers are right in hunter education debate.
One of the strengths of our community has long been the quality of the hunter safety education program — primarily preparing young people for a lifetime of hunting. The quality has been driven by the dedication and skill of those who volunteer to teach the classes.
The ongoing dispute between the local instructors and state Department of Fish and Wildlife over the changes in state regulations making live fire optional rather than mandatory needs to be resolved. The dispute led to the resignation of the volunteers.
In this case, the volunteers are correct and state officials would display wisdom by listening and restoring live fire as mandatory. The state’s rationale for dropping the requirement is it is hard for West Side classes to find places for live fire practice.
Ultimately, these West Side hunters will have to find an area to fire a gun in order to hunt. Chances are, that location will be in Kittitas County or Eastern Washington. It is wrong to compromise that component of hunter safety training.
Even if it is difficult and inconvenient to stage live fire practice on the West Side, it is needed to educate hunters.