Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program: Looking Forward

June 5, 2015

The Coalition is proposing to convene an independent and
open process to reevaluate and update the laws behind Washington’s premier
program for protecting wildlife habitat and developing opportunities for
outdoor recreation, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP).

The Coalition has long been committed to ensuring that WWRP
is current and responsive to state needs. This year will not be the first time we
have considered updates to the program.

In 2005, this lead to the creation of WWRP’s Farmland
Preservation and Riparian categories. WWRP became the first state program to
invest in preserving our historic farms and the wildlife habitat they support
and allowed us to invest in keeping our state’s rivers open to the public while
safeguarding clean, healthy water for our anglers, boaters, wildlife,
fisheries, farms, and communities.

At the same time, the Coalition helped pass changes
requiring the state to provide tax support to counties that host habitat lands.
After the legislature froze this funding in 2011, the Coalition has continued
to work to restore it.

In 2009, the Coalition requested reforms that were adopted
allowing non-profit conservation organizations to join government agencies and
tribes in competing for WWRP grants.

In each case, the legislature held hearings during the
course of the session on proposed amendments.
In contrast, this year’s Senate proposal to radically alter WWRP was
released to the public only hours before its only hearing, and was made without
consulting stakeholders.

The number one priority of the Coalition has always been
maintaining the integrity of WWRP as a fair, transparent program that relies on
a competitive, scientific process to ensure that we are investing in the
highest quality, most important projects that provide the most benefit to
Washington state.

We are committed to making real and impactful changes to the
WWRP, but firmly believe that they should be made through an open, independent
process. Transparency and inclusiveness are important if we hope to preserve
WWRP as a national model program whose primary focus is the well-being of our

We look forward to seeing recommendations to keep this
important program current with our state’s needs, and are committed to
participating in the independent process to make sure all stakeholders,
including legislators, are heard.

But we also strongly believe that in order for reforms to
succeed, stakeholders need to trust that the law will be respected. Without a
steadfast reliance on the program’s integrity, that faith is undermined and the
independent process cannot succeed.

Photo: miss*cee via Flickr