Senate Shenanigans: what’s up in Olympia

May 6, 2015

The Washington Wildlife and
Recreation Program (WWRP) is the state’s primary tool for conservation
and the largest source of funding for trail and local parks projects. WWRP has done more to protect Puget Sound than any
other state program. It preserves the working farms and forests, fisheries,
outdoor recreation, and natural treasures that support our economy and our high
quality of life here in Washington.

The House’s budget proposal
released March 27 includes $75 million in funding for WWRP and preserves the
integrity of the program. The Senate
released their budget on April 8, which they say includes $68.8 million for
WWRP grants. However, the Senate budget does not follow the evaluation process
required by law. Of that $68.8 million, $38 million is used for earmarks,
funding projects outside of the WWRP selection process.

The basis of the program is its nationally-recognized impartial ranking process, established in state
law. Projects are selected based on an independently administered
evaluation process which ensures that projects receive funding in order of
quality and importance.

The Senate proposal selects
preferred categories and projects to receive funding, earmarking lower-ranked
projects at the expense of more deserving ones. For Farmland
Preservation projects, for example, this includes skipping 17 higher ranked
projects to fund two proposals ranked 23rd and 24th. If passed, this would be the first time that the
established WWRP law is not followed in the 25-year history of the program.

In order to go around the
WWRP statute, the Senate actually made changes to the law behind WWRP in the
back of the budget, allowing budget writers to remove entire categories and
fund projects as they wish. This is a dangerous way of making policy changes
that avoids the public scrutiny and input that such reform would ordinarily

By eliminating projects and
categories from WWRP, by not following the law behind it, and by eliminating
its fair, merit-based funding system and reducing it to an earmarks program,
the Senate proposal endangers the future of WWRP.

Thanks to you – a coalition of over 280 businesses and
nonprofits, and countless individuals, Republican and Democrat, in every corner
of our state – we are working to restore the program and invest in the
high-quality recreation and conservation projects that deserve public funds. It
is your
that helps us bring a voice for Washington’s outdoors to
Olympia and generate coverage across our state to push to preserve this
incredible program.

With your help, our Coalition staff will be working hard to
bring your voice to Olympia and make sure the Senate hears how much the people
of Washington care about our great outdoors.

Photo credit: jaremy via Flickr