After an extensive review process, the recommendations of the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) are now included in a bill that is moving smoothly and swiftly through the House and Senate.
The 2015 legislative session resulted in a $55 million dollar appropriation for WWRP and a proviso calling for a review of the 25 year old program. The Coalition fought hard to ensure that the integrity of the WWRP was maintained and, during the review process, actively engaged stakeholders and provided extensive input to the RCO as they developed recommendations.
In January these recommendations resulted in a bill proposing changes that would update and modernize this tremendously successful program. These changes include:
1) Simplifying the formula for allocating funds between categories
2) Opening up the program to more applicants
3) Alleviating match restrictions in low-income communities
4) Enhancing public access on state lands
5) Contributing even more to the preservation of conservation-compatible working lands
6) Giving WWRP a larger role to play in the maintenance and stewardship of our public lands
The Coalition is very supportive of the changes but has concerns about losses in funding to habitat conservation projects as a result of the revised allocation formula. However, with these broadly popular changes the Coalition expects and will be pushing for more legislative support in the upcoming budget cycle. An increase in funding for WWRP could more than make up for the losses in funding to habitat conservation.