Former Congressman Norm Dicks calls on Congress, Speaker Boehner, to reauthorize conservation fund
The annual breakfast of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition Friday morning, September 25, highlighted the importance of two programs, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, to the health and economy of Washington state. The Coalition Breakfast speakers featured former Governor Dan Evans, former Congressman Norm Dicks, and Mayor Frank Kuntz of Wenatchee.
At the breakfast, former Congressman Norm Dicks called on Congress, and particularly House Speaker John Boehner, to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The 50-year-old fund is set to expire Wednesday, September 30, if Congress fails to reauthorize it. The latest draft of a budget resolution doesn’t include any language reauthorizing the fund, despite strong bipartisan support for the fund in both houses of Congress.
“This program is the legacy of the late Washington Senator Scoop Jackson and it safeguards our incredible natural parks and forests, beautiful waterways, and invests in local and state parks that every one of us benefit from every day,” Norm Dicks said. “In part thanks to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program…Washington consistently receives significant investments from LWCF. These two programs work hand in hand to keep our state beautiful, to support our clean air and water, and to drive an outdoor economic engine that creates more jobs than either aerospace or technology.”
Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz spoke on the impact of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program in Wenatchee, in particular highlighting how the WWRP’s matching grants have allowed the city to preserve the Wenatchee Foothills, over 2,500 acres of hiking and biking trails and wildlife habitat adjacent to the city of Wenatchee.
“In Wenatchee, residents, businesses, and recreation groups all understood that the chance to save the foothills was the chance to save the quality of life we all moved to Wenatchee for in the first place,” said Mayor Kuntz. “None of this would be possible if the city did not have access to the matching funds provided by the WWRP.”
Former Governor Dan Evans presented the annual Joan Thomas Award for a lifetime of work for Washington’s great outdoors to award-winning journalist Joel Connelly of the Seattle P-I.
About the Coalition
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition is a non-profit citizens group founded in a historic bipartisan effort by former Governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry. The Coalition promotes public funding for Washington’s outdoors through the state Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Members consist of a diverse group of over 280 organizations representing conservation, business, recreation, hunting, fishing, farming and community interests. The breadth and diversity of the Coalition is the key to its success — no one member could secure such a high level of funding for parks and habitat on its own.
What is LWCF?
Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the nation’s premier federal grant program for conservation and outdoor recreation. The program uses no taxpayer dollars. Instead, $900 million in offshore oil and gas lease revenue is meant to be invested in parks and outdoor recreation opportunities each year. However, a majority of LWCF funds continue to be diverted for unrelated purposes.
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (RCW 79A.15) is a state grant program funded from the capital construction budget that provides funding to protect habitat, preserve working farms and creates new local and state parks. 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.