Demand for outdoor access, conservation increasing statewide

May 21, 2014

Citizens group to request Governor prioritizes outdoor funding

Demand for conservation and outdoor recreation funding continues to increase as communities across Washington recover from the recession and prepare for population growth.

Applications recently closed for grant programs administered by the Recreation and Conservation Office, including the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP), the state’s primary recreation and conservation program funded in the capital construction budget.

WWRP applications increased by 17% percent this year.

These projects represent the best and most urgent recreation and conservation needs in Washington’s communities.

Spread across 34 of 39 counties and 42 of 49 legislative districts, the 217 proposals include:

  • 21 trails
  • 37 farmland conservation easements to preserve working lands
  • 45 habitat preservation and restoration projects
  • 114 local and state parks, water access and other outdoor recreation projects

Applications will be evaluated by independent experts through a nationally-recognized process over the summer.

It would take $153 million to fund all the projects. In 2013, the state legislature funded the WWRP at $65 million in the capital construction budget, funding more than 90 projects.

The nonprofit Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, the program’s primary watchdog, will vote on a funding request for the WWRP in June and send it to the Governor’s office and state legislature.

“We are incredibly grateful for Governor Inslee’s leadership for our outdoors,” said Joanna Grist, executive director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “The WWRP is the only state program that can boast widespread benefits like getting people outside, creating jobs, and helping the state adapt to a changing climate.”

Outdoor recreation has emerged as an economic driver in recent years. One out of three Washingtonians participated in outdoor recreation last year, supporting a $22.5 billion industry. Additionally, business leaders in the Puget Sound listed the region’s environmental surroundings as a key asset for doing business in the area and retaining employees, according to a Seattle Chamber of Commerce study.

What is the WWRP?

The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (RCW 79A.15) is a state grant program funded from the capital construction budget that provides funding to protect habitat, preserve working farms and creates new local and state parks. Independent experts rank the applications based on criteria such as the benefits to the public, level of threat to the property, or presence of threatened or endangered species.

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.