Saturday, May 25, 2024

State senate would fund $80 million in balanced investments for outdoor recreation and conservation

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OLYMPIA -  The Senate capital construction budget released recently includes $80 million in funding for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP). While falling short of the $100 million included in Governor Inslee’s budget, the Senate’s proposed healthy program level builds on the legislature’s recent bipartisan efforts to update this nationally recognized program to meet current needs.

At this funding level, the legislature would fund 102 of the 220 projects proposed for this biennium. 

“The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition is pleased the Senate honored the program’s balanced approach to funding the highest competitively ranked habitat conservation and outdoor recreation projects,” said Coalition Board Chair Deborah Jensen. “These investments are vital for securing recreational access for hikers, hunters, anglers and others, and ensuring Washington remains such a special place where people choose to live, work, and recreate in our great outdoors.”

 The WWRP is the state’s premier grant program for outdoor recreation and the preservation of public lands. Since the program was founded in 1989, the WWRP has successfully leveraged over $1.3 billion in public and private investments for more than 1,200 projects, including iconic landscapes, state and local parks, farms, trails, and habitat that Washingtonians treasure and depend on.

 In 2015, the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) performed a detailed review of the WWRP to update the program. As a result, in 2016, the Governor signed into law SB 6227,  a bipartisan bill that shifted program funding toward recreation and renovation, development, and restoration of state-owned conservation lands. Further updates made the WWRP more transparent, accountable, and accessible to underserved communities. The Senate proposed bipartisan capital budget shows renewed commitment to the WWRP as defined in statute.

 With Washington’s ongoing population surge, protecting and creating public spaces has never been more important. Along with generating $22.5 billion for the state’s economy and supporting over 227,000 jobs, outdoor recreation offers myriad health and wellness benefits.

 The Coalition recently collected signatures from thousands statewide in support of $120 million for WWRP in the next biennium. More than 140 organizations and opinion leaders and over 1,100 individuals signed the letter of support, demonstrating how important this program is to Washingtonians across our beautiful state.

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