THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE[SEATTLE] Today, Governor Inslee released his budget, which includes $100 million in funding for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) and $400,000 to create a more equitable grant process at the Recreation and Conservation Office.
The COVID19 crisis has affected our outdoor recreation needs in significant ways, bringing more people outside to recreate for their mental and physical health. Indeed, the demand for outdoor recreation has never been higher. Meanwhile, the economic crisis created by COVID19 has made the outdoor recreation economy even more important. It has also highlighted the inequities in our current system, as many communities were left without access to safe and healthy recreation opportunities close to home.
Governor Inslee’s proposal is a great step toward meeting the outdoor recreation and conservation needs of our growing state. The WWRP, funded through the capital construction budget, is the state’s premier grant program for habitat conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities. The program has played a significant role in our state’s landscape and quality of life, investing over $1.5 billion into state and local parks, trails, wildlife habitat, working lands, and other community priorities across the state. This program has always adapted and evolved to better meet the needs of Washingtonians and the equity review is a welcomed addition to that process.
“We’re thrilled that Governor Inslee has once again set a high funding bar for the Legislature to meet. In funding the WWRP at $100 million, he recognizes the importance of this program to communities from Chehalis to the Colville Reservation,” said Christine Mahler, Executive Director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “We also applaud his acknowledgement of the need to analyze existing grant programs for equity measures. However, we encourage the Legislature to consider an increased investment on equity, including up-front investments in underserved communities as part of the review process.”
WWRP projects mitigate the impacts of rapid population growth on the environment, create outdoor recreation opportunities for families across the state, preserve wildlife habitat, and protect cherished places all across the state. They also allow hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, and foresters to protect the land their families have depended on for generations. Simultaneously, WWRP projects also address many other state priorities, including economic growth and jobs, mental and physical health issues, childhood development and school performance, and salmon and orca recovery.
This year alone, over 110 different local, state, tribal, and non-profit groups from across the state submitted 233 applications for funding in the next biennium. At $100 million, 124 of these projects would be funded by the WWRP. At $140 million, an additional 22 local parks, trails, and other conservation and recreation projects would receive funding from the program.
This autumn, the Coalition is collecting signatures from across the state in support of $140 million for the WWRP. More than 65 organizations and opinion leaders and over 400 individuals have signed the letter of support to date, demonstrating how important this program is to Washingtonians across our beautiful state.
With the start of the legislative session approaching, we respectfully urge the Legislature to fund this vital program at $140 million and invest a total of $5 million in a thorough equity review, including up-front investments. In doing so, they will support our state’s growing recreation economy, fulfill local community needs, and preserve Washington’s natural heritage for ALL Washingtonians.