Gov. Christine Gregoire’s 2011-13 budget proposal does not contain funding for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which supporters say will shortchange communities across the state.
“The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program is a highly acclaimed grant program that provides a significant economic benefit to our state,” said Joanna Grist, executive director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, which advocates for the Program. “Because the Program ultimately provides good jobs for engineers, landscape architects, planners and builders, and economic stimulus to cities and towns across the state, we continue to support the mission of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.”
Though Gregoire’s capital budget includes $20 million for projects that benefit Puget Sound, her proposal does not fund top-ranked projects that have been vetted through the rigorous evaluation process of the statewide Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. For the past 21 years, the Program has provided a proven, nonpartisan process that distributes money to projects throughout the state based on expert evaluations. Its track record is the reason the Program has been consistently funded over the last two decades, according to Grist, and why it should be funded again this biennium.
Grist acknowledged the challenges the Governor and the Legislature are facing with the 2011-13 budget, but pointed out the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program is already an efficient, nationally recognized program that provides jobs and direct economic benefits across the state. She noted the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program is funded from the state capital construction budget, which is separate from the state operating budget and does not compete with teachers, firefighters, and social services.
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program supports state and local economies by providing jobs, supporting working farms and promoting tourism and outdoor recreation-related related sales. Businesses support the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program because cities and towns with parks and open spaces attract qualified employees. The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program contributes to the millions of retail dollars and hundreds of thousands of tax dollars a year that flow to the state and local economies through tourism and outdoor recreation.
“Because of the great work the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program already has done and for the great work we have yet to do, we continue to support a Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program for all of Washington,” Grist said. “Businesses, farmers, families, and outdoors enthusiasts want the benefits the Program provides, and the state economy needs them.”
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition was created in 1989 by former governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry to protect state and local parks, preserve habitat for fish and wildlife, and to save working farms. The Coalition persuaded the Legislature to create the Program the following year to provide grants to worthy projects across the state.
Since 1990, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program has provided more than $615 million for more than 1,000 neighborhood and state parks, ball fields, trails, beaches, farms and wildlife habitat areas. Today, the Coalition includes more than 270 businesses and environmental, recreational, and community groups in Washington. For more information, visit www.WildlifeRecreation.org.