Conservation program funds protects water quality, wildlife habitat in Kittitas County

February 26, 2014

Congress appropriates funds for land & water conservation

With the recent passage of the appropriations bill, one of the state’s signature water and habitat conservation projects is moving forward. A project to protect the headwaters of the Yakima River in Kittitas County, and other conservation and outdoor recreation projects got a boost this month with approval of funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The $306 million included in the bill for the LWCF will protect some of the nation’s most iconic places, enhance local economies and increase access to recreation.

Protecting water sources and wildlife populations

The grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund will protect the headwaters of the Yakima River within the Wenatchee National Forest to ensure clean water will be available in the future and that habitat for elk, mule deer, salmon, steelhead and bull trout will be protected.

As a key component of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, a collaborative water management and environmental restoration effort, these federal funds leverage and complement state and local funding to implement the Integrated Plan’s strategy to protect the headwaters of the Yakima River while also tackling fish passage and water supply issues. The headwaters provide critical habitat for conservation and restoration of many fish and wildlife species, including imperiled native fish.

“This grant is a testament to the power of cooperation,” said Michael Garrity, Washington State Conservation Director for American Rivers.  “The fish and wildlife habitat protected as part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan shows how much can be accomplished when conservationists, farmers, tribes, and local governments get together behind common goals.”

“Kittitas County is a proud participant in the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan,” said Paul Jewell, Kittitas County Commissioner. “Securing these federal funds for the land conservation element of the Plan helps leverage the already significant local and state commitment to the effort and ensures that these lands will remain open for hunting and other economically-important outdoor recreation opportunities that are vital to the health of the County.”

This LWCF project preserves the region’s rural character and protects its natural resources for the next generation.

The future of the conservation fund

“The nation is at risk of losing its premier program to protect parks, forests, trails and waters for our families, the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Joanna Grist, executive director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “This program has always seen great bipartisan support, and with reauthorization in 2015 we need to see a concerted push from our members of congress now more than ever.”

LWCF will expire in 2015 and will require authorization from Congress in order to continue preserving our nation’s treasured outdoor spaces.

Other Washington conservation projects included in the bill include:

  • $3 million for Pysht Coastal Forest in Jefferson County to protect productive working forest, supporting local forestry jobs and ensuring watershed protection and critical salmon spawning habitat.
  • $4 million for Klickitat Canyon Working Forest in Klickitat County to protect the scenic river canyon from low-density residential development, preserving public recreational access, local jobs and mule deer migration pathways.

The appropriations bill also includes:

  • $48 million nationally for the LWCF stateside grants program, a portion of which will go to local parks in Washington State, and
  • $27 million nationally for the Cooperative Endangered Species Grants program, which provides grants to help states and private landowners comply with the Endangered Species Act.

About LWCF

Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the nation’s premier federal grant program for conservation and outdoor recreation. The program uses no taxpayer dollars. Instead, $900 million in offshore oil and gas lease revenue is meant to be invested in parks and outdoor recreation opportunities each year. However, a majority of LWCF funds continue to be diverted for unrelated purposes.

About the Coalition

The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition is a non-profit citizens group founded in a historic bipartisan effort by former Governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry. The Coalition promotes public funding for Washington’s outdoors through the state Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Members consist of a diverse group of over 280 organizations representing conservation, business, recreation, hunting, fishing, farming and community interests. The breadth and diversity of the Coalition is the key to its success — no one member could secure such a high level of funding for parks and habitat on its own.