The Legislature will have to marshal all of the forces at its disposal to meet the challenge of the most daunting budget in years. Fortunately, natural areas contribute billions of dollars to the state economy, helping to provide for Washington families even when other avenues become strapped for cash.
A recent study commissioned by The Trust for Public Land shows that the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program has contributed to the billions of dollars that flow to the Washington state economy in taxes, tourism, and other revenue. Given the amount of money the Program provides to the state, renewing funding for the Program will be an essential investment in the state’s long-term prosperity.
In addition to local improvements, investments by the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program bring federal dollars to the state. “Conservation efforts of the Department and our many partners are significantly greater because of the use of WWRP funds to provide match for national grants,” said Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson. “These funds have allowed the Department to bring to the state more than $100 million from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the last 10 years for critical conservation efforts — dollars that would not have come to the state without WWRP.”
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program generates jobs and strengthens local economies by creating new state and local parks, preserving trails and productive farmland, providing water access, and providing opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Highlights of the study show that:
• Active outdoor recreation contributes $8.5 billion a year in actual retail sales and services across Washington, accounting for 3.5 percent of gross state product, supporting 115,000 jobs and generating $650 million in annual sales tax revenue.
• Sport fishing contributes $1.04 billion in retail sales and services annually to the Washington economy, supports 14,700 jobs across the state, yielding $512 million in job income, and generates $89.4 million in state and local tax revenue.
• Hunting contributes $394 million in retail sales and services annually to the state economy, supports 5,600 jobs, yielding $196 million in job income, and generates $35.2 million in state and local tax revenue.
• Development projects, such as building visitor facilities, bike trails, campgrounds, athletic fields, boat ramps, docks, parking lots and playgrounds provide engineering, landscape architecture, construction, service, and supply jobs for working people in communities across the state.
• Parks and open space protect property values and make homes more attractive for prospective buyers. Half of respondents to an Association of Realtors survey said they would pay 10 percent more for a house located near a park.
• Wildlife watching contributes more than $1.7 billion in retail sales and services a year to the Washington economy, supports more than 21,000 jobs, yielding $426.9 million in job income, and generates $56.9 million in state tax revenue.
• The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program provides the only source of state funding for farmland preservation. Washington’s $38 billion food and agriculture industry employs 160,000 people and contributes 12 percent to the state’s economy. Almost $15 billion in food and agriculture products were exported through Washington ports in 2008, the third largest total in the United States. Sales at the 125 farmers markets across the state usually fall between $20 million and $30 million a year, supporting farmers across the state.
• Physical activity leads to healthier people who have lower healthcare costs. On average, an inactive adult will pay $250 more for healthcare each year than an active adult. An inactive senior over the age of 65 will pay $500 more each year for healthcare than an active senior.
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 Program was created the following year to provide grants to worthy projects across the state.
Since 1990, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grant 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.