PRESS RELEASE: The Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition (Coalition) has called on the state legislature to fund the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program (WWRP) at $130 million for the 2019-21 biennium. This capital budget request will fund local community projects ranging from urban parks to working farms to mountain trails. On July 18, 2018, 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.
For nearly 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 $1.4 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.
In seeking a $130 million appropriation for the WWRP, the Coalition recognizes that the need for the outdoor recreation and conservation funding has grown as our state’s population has increased, wildlife habitat continues to be threatened, and the demand for outdoor recreation has never been higher.
This year alone, over 120 different local, state, tribal, and non-profit groups from across the state submitted 273 applications for funding in the next biennium.
In many ways, the request is actually quite conservative. Even with a $130 million appropriation for the next biennium, not all projects will be funded, not all communities' needs will be met, and many local priorities will be put on hold.
“Funding the WWRP at $130 million is a good step in the right direction to meeting the outdoor recreation and conservation needs of our growing state,” said Coalition Board Chair Adrian Miller. “Without healthy funding for this vital program, communities across the state will suffer.”
Robust funding for the WWRP is more important than ever as our state’s population growth has accelerated in recent years, adding almost a quarter of a million people in the last two years alone. Indeed, from 2008 to 2017 the state added over 700,000 residents—that’s like dropping a Denver, CO or Washington, DC right in the middle of our state.
Says Miller, “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. We need to take action NOW 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. Additionally, WWRP projects simultaneously address numerous other state priorities, including mental and physical health issues, childhood development and school performance, and salmon and orca recovery.
Investing in the WWRP also invests in our economy and fuels job growth. The WWRP helps support 201,000 outdoor recreation jobs in our state—more than the information technology sector or the aerospace industry. Outdoor recreational lands generate more than $26.2 billion in consumer spending annually and are responsible for generating $2.3 billion in state and local tax revenue. Studies show that rural counties in particular benefit from the outdoor recreation economy and tourism made possible by programs like 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. For every state dollar invested in the WWRP, an additional 63 cents is leveraged from local communities. According to a recent analysis by Earth Economics, WWRP projects often provide millions of dollars in additional benefits to communities each year in the form of ecosystem services, tourism dollars, and other consumer spending.
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 supporting $130 million in funding for the WWRP, which will be presented to Governor Inslee and legislative caucus leaders this autumn.
About the WWRC The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition is a nonprofit organization that leverages the voices of over 280 diverse groups working together to ensure robust public funding for Washington’s great outdoors.
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.