Conservation program funds Pysht Coastal Forest, protects jobs and wildlife habitat

February 3, 2014

Congress appropriates funds for land & water conservation

Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-6) has requested to be contacted at 360.373.9725 for comment.

With the recent passage of the appropriations bill, one of Washington’s signature forest conservation projects is moving forward.  After several years of uncertainty in the federal funding process, Pysht Coastal Forest, west of Port Angeles, 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 FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Act for the LWCF will protect some of the nation’s most iconic places, enhance local economies and increase access to outdoor recreation opportunities.

“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 the program expiring in 2015 we need to see a concerted push from our members of congress now more than ever to preserve it.”

Forest Legacy Program maintains private working forests

The Forest Legacy Program, funded through LWCF, acquires development rights on working timberlands. A grant of $3 million from LWCF will ensure that the Pysht Tree Farm remains a working forest and protect nine miles of shore and adjacent salmon spawning streams along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This unique and important area was rated in the top ten projects in the country in the merit–based ranking.

“Merrill & Ring has managed the Pysht Tree Farm for over 125 years, providing a sustainable harvest of timber, productive fish and wildlife habitat and hundreds of family wage jobs. Funding from LWCF helps to ensure that these lands remain working forests,” said Norm Schaaf, VP Timberlands with Merrill & Ring and the manager of the Pysht Tree Farm.

“Retaining private working forests is essential to conserving our forests – and keeping local communities economically healthy,” said Gene Duvernoy, President of Forterra, a regional conservation and community building organization. “We are very pleased that Congress has appropriated these funds through LWCF, and that we have a landowner that is willing to partner on this project.” Forterra has been working with the landowner Merrill & Ring and the Washington Department of Natural Resources to develop this project.

LWCF – Land conservation, recreation & jobs

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 funded by LWCF in Fiscal Year 2014 include:

  • $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.
  • $3 million for Washington Cascades – Yakima Basin in Kittitas County to protect the headwaters of the Yakima River to ensure water will be available and clean in the future and protect habitat for elk, mule deer, steelhead and bull trout.

The 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 Conservation Fund Grants program, which provides grants to states and private land owners to support recovery of endangered species.

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.