House Saves Critical Outdoor Recreation Program in Capital Budget

April 6, 2011

The Washington State House of Representatives released its 2011-2013 capital construction budget at a hearing this morning, appropriating $50 million to save the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) which funds high priority wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation projects across the state.

Over the last 20 years the WWRP grant program has taken root as one of the state’s most popular and successful programs, enjoying broad bipartisan support for its mandate to protect and improve state and local parks, preserve habitat for fish and wildlife and save working farms. The governor’s budget, however, had proposed eliminating all WWRP funding.

“The majority of people do not have the opportunity to hunt and enjoy private lands” said Sandy Keller, manager of the Tri-State Outfitters in Moses Lake.  “Less land equals less business. Our business existence depends on the hunters and outdoors enthusiasts. The more acres these people have to access, the bigger demand there will be for our outdoor products.”

The House proposed budget does represent a 50 percent cut in funding for the WWRP from four years ago, but given the state’s current budget crisis, recreation supporters praised the House decision.

“The move by the House to keep the Program alive signals legislators are looking ahead, and understand what it would mean for Washington State if critical farm, wildlife and hunting lands aren’t preserved now,” said Joanna Grist, executive director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, which advocates for the program.   “We are also thankful that the House recognized the importance of maintaining the WWRP’s time-tested, pork-free and fair process.”

While the House budget is a positive development, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program remains at risk. Senate budget writers have yet to weigh in on how much funding the program will receive in the next two year construction budget.

Statewide, renewing WWRP funding is an essential investment in our long term prosperity because of the billions of retail dollars and millions of tax dollars a year that flow to the state and local economies through tourism and outdoor recreation.   Outdoor recreation generates $8.5 billion in revenues annually to Washington’s economy and supports 115,000 jobs.  This years’ House Capital budget funds 71 projects that will help maintain critical wildlife habitat, protect our waterways and ensure that outdoor recreation can continue to be source of income for thousands of Washington families.

A complete list of funded projects is attached.

“When fishing’s good, people fish,” says Buzz Ramsey, Brand Manager, Yakima Bait, Yakima, whose customers often come to fish in WWRP preserved areas such as Tieton River Canyon.  “Good fishing means protecting the habitat so the fish can thrive.  For us, that’s everything because good fishing means sales that support the 200 family wage jobs our fishing tackle company provides.”

Since it was created in 1989, WWRP funded projects have had a huge positive impact on the economies of local communities statewide.  “Many people don’t realize saving our local farms means saving local jobs.” said Jeff Dawson,  a rancher in the Spokane area who’s project is included in this year’s House budget.  “What will happen to local families if they can’t farm anymore?”

About the WWRC

The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition (WWRC) is a non-profit citizens group founded in a historic bipartisan effort by former Governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry.  Our members consist of a diverse group of over 250 organizations representing conservation, business, recreation, hunting, fishing, farming, and community interests. Our breadth and diversity is the key to our success–no one member of the Coalition could secure this level of funding for parks and habitat on their own!

What We Do

The Coalition founded the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) grant program in 1989 to address the need to preserve more land for outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat. A state agency, the Recreation and Conservation Office or RCO, reviews, ranks, and distributes the grants through a competitive process that guarantees that only the best new park, habitat and farm projects are funded.  The Coalition lobbies the Governor and the Legislature, which sets the funding level and approves the final list of projects.

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.

What is the difference between the WWRP and the WWRC?

The WWRC, or Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, is the non-profit citizens group that serves as the watchdog and advocate for the WWRP grant program.  The WWRP is a state grant program funded by the legislature and administered by the RCO. The Coalition receives no funding from the state—instead we rely entirely on the generous contributions of individuals, organizations, and corporations for our operation.