Expresses optimism for updating program so that it continues to meet diverse needs
“Over the last 25 years the WWRP grant program has invested over a billion dollars in projects that preserve our great outdoors, benefit local communities and help get Washingtonians outside,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director of the Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “We are grateful that legislative leaders preserved the program’s even-handed approach which ensures that the best proposals receive public funds. Safeguarding this program is an investment in an outdoor recreation economy that supports nearly 200,000 jobs in Washington.”
The $55 million is a smaller allocation to WWRP than in prior biennia – down from $65 million in the last budget. The group expressed concern about the reduction. The WWRP grant program is the state’s principle vehicle for investing in outdoor recreation and conservation, is the only source of farmland preservation in the state budget, and is the prime mechanism for funding projects based on a nonpartisan, merit-based ranking. The reduction leaves several important projects unfunded across the state, but still provides support for 70 valuable projects that support recreation in local spaces and the great outdoors.
The capital construction budget includes a proviso calling for a WWRP stakeholder program review to be hosted by the Recreation and Conservation Office. The legislature appropriated $60,000 for a process to be concluded by December 1.
Said Grist: “The Coalition has long been committed to a broad, stakeholder review for this vital grant program. We firmly believe that even the most effective programs need to be updated occasionally to continue serving the needs of the state. We will actively participate in the review and are optimistic that the process can make sure all voices are heard and that this program will be ready for 25 more years of success.”
Some project highlights funded by the $55 million appropriation for the program include:
- Preserving pristine wetlands along Dabob Bay on the Hood Canal, an area critical for the commercial shellfish industry. This project would also protect the Navy’s underwater research range and open the area for future trail development for hiking and wildlife viewing,
- The protection of critical salmon and mule deer habitat on Taneum Creek and restoration to provide clean water for Yakima Valley farms and communities,
- Construction of day use facilities at Kukutali Preserve to include new trails, picnic areas, and other facilities to develop the preserve into an education and wildlife viewing destination.
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 create 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.
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.