FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
[SEATTLE, WA] The Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition (Coalition) calls on the state legislature to fund the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program (WWRP) at $140 million for the 2021-23 biennium. This Capital Budget request will fund local community projects ranging from urban parks to working farms to mountain trails. On August 12, 2020, the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board (RCFB) adopted this recommendation, which will be included in the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) budget request to the Governor.
Robust funding in our outdoors is critical at this moment in time. Many hiking trails and campgrounds are full to bursting all week, as people seek out the mental and physical health benefits of recreating outside. Meanwhile, communities without local parks and trails—many of them communities of color—are suffering, as those community members struggle to find an outlet. And, as Washington’s population continues to grow and climate change continues to impact our state, the importance of preserving and restoring wildlife habitat becomes ever more important.
In seeking a $140 million appropriation for the WWRP, the Coalition recognizes that the COVID19 crisis has impacted our outdoor recreation needs in significant ways, bringing more people outside to recreate. Meanwhile, the economic crisis created by COVID19 has made the outdoor recreation economy ever more important.
“Funding the WWRP at $140 million is an important investment in our outdoors,” said Coalition Executive Director, Christine Mahler. “This funding will improve equity, increase access, and improve habitat, all while boosting our state’s economy—there are very few expenditures that give you such bang for the buck.”
Investing in the WWRP invests in our economy and fuels job growth. The WWRP helps support 264,000 outdoor recreation jobs in our state—more than the information technology sector or the aerospace industry. Meanwhile, outdoor recreation generates more than $26.5 billion in consumer spending each year, along with over $3.4 billion in state and local taxes. Outdoor recreation areas also provide at least $216 billion in ecosystem services, such as water storage and disaster risk reduction. Studies show that rural counties in particular benefit from the outdoor recreation economy and tourism made possible by programs like the WWRP. That means that in addition to the immediate stimulus these funds would provide in terms of construction jobs and material purchases, the $140 million would also be a critical long-term investment in our state’s economic vitality.
Says Mahler, “Unfortunately, the state is not keeping pace with the needs of this growing population, addressing their demands for recreation opportunities, or mitigating their environmental impact. Taking action now is not only fiscally responsible, as the price of land continues to increase, but is also socially responsible in order to protect Washington’s great outdoors for our kids and grandkids.”
This growth has also driven up construction and land costs—our dollars don’t buy as much land now as they did even two years ago. So, funding for the WWRP must increase to simply maintain purchasing power.
WWRP projects mitigate the impacts of rapid population growth, create outdoor opportunities for families in across the state, preserve wildlife habitat, and protect cherished public lands. They also allow hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, and foresters to protect the land their families have depended on for generations. Simultaneously, WWRP projects also address numerous other state priorities, including mental and physical health issues, childhood development and school performance, and salmon and orca recovery.
The WWRP also provides a reduced match requirement for lower-income communities, as well as encouraging larger communities to prioritize neighborhoods in greater need, such as those without parks or those with residents of lower income and worse health conditions—all, unfortunately, metrics frequently seen in communities of color. Robust funding, therefore, will help improve equity in the outdoors—although it is far from sufficient to address this need alone.
For over 30 years, the WWRP has been our state’s premier tool for habitat conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities. The program has played a significant role in our state’s landscape and quality of life, investing over $1.5 billion into state and local parks, trails, wildlife habitat, working lands, and much more. It is nationally recognized for its fair, objective, and independent funding process. The Coalition is an independent nonprofit that advocates, educates, and builds awareness for the WWRP.
“The WWRP is an exceptionally cost-effective way to advance the long-term health and well-being of our residents, our diverse ecosystems, and our state and local economies,” says Mahler. “If we don’t protect Washington’s most precious lands now, our natural landscapes, parks, farms, and forests will disappear forever. We will jeopardize the places that define our communities and improve our lives.”
The Coalition is asking for organizations and advocates to sign a letter [https://bit.ly/140forWWRP] supporting $140 million in funding for the WWRP, which will be presented to Governor Inslee and legislative caucus leaders later this year.
About the WWRC
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition preserves, protects, and encourages the use of Washington’s great outdoors through education, advocacy, community outreach, and network building. The WWRC is Washington’s chief advocate for local conservation and recreation projects across the state. Over thirty years ago, the Coalition led the creation of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP), and remains its chief independent nonprofit advocate and partner to this day. For more information, contact Christine Mahler at Christine@WildlifeRecreation.org.
About the WWRP
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) is our state’s premier conservation and recreation grant program which provides matching funds to create new local and state parks, protect wildlife habitat, and preserve working lands.