Our community is to be commended for supporting the acquisition of the McWhorter Ranch on the south slope of Rattlesnake Mountain, for which $1.8 million was recently appropriated by the state Legislature. This is a significant first step in preserving nearly 13,400 acres of critical habitat and providing recreational access for hikers, wildlife watchers, equestrians and hunters.
The Legislature deserves our thanks for funding the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, preserving its mandate to protect our wildlife and waterways, and for keeping the integrity of the program intact.
The leadership of state Sen. Jerome Delvin in this regard is particularly noteworthy. The support of Benton County Commissioner Leo Bowman and the Tri-City Herald editorial board were also key and much appreciated.
Conserving open space isn't just about preserving our quality of life. Open space benefits our local economy. Outdoor recreation generated $8.5 billion for Washington's economy in 2006. Locally, Badger Mountain trails were visited over 200,000 times in the last three years with a direct economic benefit to our area estimated to be over $1 million per year.
Another $1.7 million is needed to purchase the entire ranch. We encourage the community to continue its support. Your grandchildren will thank you for it.
Mike Lilga, Richland