Washington State Parks Foundation awarded Senator Kevin Ranker (D-San Juan Island) its Legislator of the Year award. With state government facing a $5 billion shortfall, significant closures to public lands were proposed.
Even though fishing, wildlife watching and hiking account for $4.5 billion in economic activity and create over 60,000 jobs each year in Washington each year, there was a need for recreational lands to become more self-sustainable. A great deal of this economic activity is tied directly to the state's recreational lands, including state parks, hunting grounds and public fishing areas.
Senator Ranker introduced Senate Bill 5622, an effort to make state recreational lands self-sufficient. The bill created the Discover Pass, a universal parking permit for motor vehicle access to public lands.
The bill was signed into law Thursday, May 12. Projected revenue from the pass is expected to exceed $70 million - enough to keep the gates open.
The foundation cited Ranker's "leadership to keep our outstanding State Park system open for all our citizens in 2011," when declaring him the Washington State Parks Foundation Legislator of the Year atits celebration Wednesday, June 15, 2011.
"Washingtonians across the state depend upon parks and other recreational lands not only for recreation and the protection of natural resources, but also for their livelihood," Ranker said. "Without this law, many public lands across the state would have been closed. When we shutdown these lands, we inadvertently harm the communities that depend upon them for economic activity.
"I'm incredibly grateful for the recognition from the State Parks Foundation. Because of the Foundation and many others who helped, this summer we can all continue to enjoy Washington's public recreational areas... and I'll still be able to go fishing at my favorite State Park."