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Sustainable funding proposed for state lands
Posting for Arlene.
The following article is out of Land Line News - a communication tool for Washington Fish & Wildlife. The agency is in partnership with Department of Natural Resources seeking ways to find sustainable funding for outdoor recreation; this is in DRAFT FORM ONLY – a proposal from the DNR will be introduced to the legislature in January. Arlene
WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091
LAND LINE NEWS NOTES - November 2010
Sustainable funding proposed for state lands
State lands are crucial to Washington's quality of life-providing habitat for fish and wildlife, and access for recreation activities that generate billions of dollars annually for Washington's economy.
Spending by recreational fishers, hunters, wildlife watchers, boaters, hikers, horseback riders and other users of state lands supports small businesses and creates jobs across Washington, particularly in rural communities.
But the economic engine, conservation benefit, and recreation access offered by state lands all are at risk due to the lack of stable, sustainable funding for land maintenance.
The state budget crisis has left its mark on an array of important state services, including state lands. As state revenues declined during the current recession, state General Fund support to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been slashed by 33 percent in the current 2009-11 biennium. More cuts are expected in the coming 2011-13 biennium.
This budget crisis has taken a toll on WDFW's ability to care for the 900,000 acres of recreational land and 700 water-access sites the agency manages. WDFW's land operation and management budget has been cut by nearly $2 million over the past several years, from $10.8 million to an anticipated $8 million next biennium. As state revenues continue to decline those cuts could grow deeper.
"Even before the budget crisis, we faced a backlog of maintenance needs on state lands, including weed control, habitat restoration, fencing, visitor facilities and other infrastructure needs," said WDFW Lands Program Manager Jennifer Quan." We recruit volunteers for some of this work, but we still need to fund equipment, materials and professional staff to coordinate projects."
Unless new funding sources can be found to address critical operation and maintenance needs, some of these recreation lands face closure.
Over 5.6 million acres of state recreation lands managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) face similar threats. The Sustainable Recreation Work Group, a citizen panel created by the Washington Legislature in 2008, recognized the need for a long-term, dedicated funding source for maintenance of state recreation lands. Based on this panel's recommendations DNR proposed legislation in the 2010 legislative session to have the ability to charge an access fee. The proposed legislation made it through the house but ran out of time in the Senate.
For the 2011 legislative session, the DNR and WDFW are jointly proposing new legislation to create stable, dedicated funding for state recreation lands. The legislative proposal includes several key features:
o An increase in the portion of Washington's gas tax revenues available to DNR, WDFW and Washington State Parks for managing recreation lands for boaters, snowmobilers and off-road vehicle riders. The proposal would calculate the one percent refund on the full 37.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax base, rather than at the current 22 cent-per-gallon rate, beginning in 2013. The gas tax refund change would provide about $250,000 annually in new funds for WDFW lands.
o An "Explore Washington Pass" for access to WDFW and DNR lands. This pass would replace WDFW's current annual vehicle-use permit. Under the proposal, annual lands access pass would be $40 for general users age 19 and older, or $5 for those purchasing fishing or hunting licenses or a watchable-wildlife package. Short-term passes would be available at $20 for a three-day pass; $15 for a two-day pass; and $10 for a one-day pass. The passes would be sold through WDFW's existing WILD recreational licensing system. Revenue from the new pass, estimated at $5.5 million annually, would be split between WDFW and DNR for land management capital, operational, maintenance and enforcement needs.
o A $10 increase in the cost of personalized license plates (raising the cost of new plates from $42 to $52, and renewals from $32 to $42 annually). The change would generate an estimated $1.3 million in additional revenue each biennium, dedicated to habitat work for threatened and endangered species on WDFW lands.
o Provisions that would allow WDFW and DNR to jointly enforce land use regulations, and would allow the agencies to seek restitution from those who damage state lands.
Comments on this legislative proposal can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org . Updates on the funding proposal will be available through future Landline news notes and on WDFW's website.
Detailed information about recreational opportunities on WDFW Wildlife Areas can be found at Wildlife Areas | Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife . Water access sites (boat launch) information can be found at Water Access Sites | Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife .
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