Washington Legislature Doubles Budget for Outdoor Recreation, Habitat Protection

July 24, 2007

Olympia — With passage of the 2007-2009 Capital Budget last Saturday, the Washington State Legislature has increased funding for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) from $50 million to $100 million in the state’s capital construction budget.

The WWRP is a state grant program that funds protection of wildlife habitat, creation of outdoor recreation areas like parks and ball fields, and preservation of working farms. Over the past 18 years, the WWRP has granted more than $450 million and leveraged an additional $315 million to fund nearly 800 projects, encompassing over 250,000 acres of outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat in cities, towns and rural communities across the state.

“I’m very pleased that we support this funding increase for the WWRP, because it means more parks, better recreation facilities, and more places to hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors throughout Washington,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “This is an investment in our future – a commitment to our children that they too will enjoy an environment and quality of life that keeps our economy strong.”

Led by the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, supporters of the WWRP spent most of the past year working to secure more funding for the WWRP. The funding increase was endorsed by Washington Realtors, Boeing, Weyerhauser, REI, the state associations of Counties and Cities, the State Parks and Fish and Wildlife commissions, and newspapers around the state. Founded by former governors Evans and Lowry to advocate for support of the WWRP, the Coalition is comprised of more than 135 conservation, business, recreation, hunting, fishing, farming, and community interests.

“Two groups of Washingtonians really deserve our thanks and appreciation today: our many Coalition members, who worked so hard in support of this important program, and the House members and Senators who understood why the WWRP is key to Washington’s quality of life,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “Thanks to them, Washington will have new neighborhood parks, more hiking trails, better campgrounds and shoreline facilities, and protection of wildlife habitat and family farms. “

“The Capital Budget had full bipartisan support this year, so all merit commendation, but I’d like to particularly thank Speaker Frank Chopp  and Chairman Bill Fromhold for their early leadership in supporting the WWRP.” Grist continued.

At the $100 million level, the WWRP will now fund 135 projects throughout the state that were selected through a competitive, “pork-free” process conducted by the Washington Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation, or “IAC.” Each year, local, state, and tribal agencies apply to the IAC for WWRP grants. Then, 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. Local and tribal governments are required to provide at least 50 percent matching funds.

The list of WWRP grant projects that will be funded over the next two years is available on the Coalition’s website at: http://www.wildliferecreation.org/files/2007%20Ranked%20WWRP%20Projects%20FINAL.pdf

More information on WWRP projects in your area can be found by using the Coalition’s “My Backyard” feature on the upper right of the homepage, and searching by county, city or legislative district.