Action Alert! Support State Public Lands and Recreation this Legislative Session

With the 2023 state legislative session underway, we’re advocating for several bills and funding proposals that would benefit public lands and recreation in Washington. Learn more about our current state policy priorities and how you can help secure important wins for the outdoors in Olympia this year.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
February 17, 2023
Action Alert! Support State Public Lands and Recreation this Legislative Session
Lead image of Crown Lakes, Mount SI NRCA. Photo by Monty VanderBilt.

Whether it’s paddling the emerald waters of Deception Pass, hiking through Capitol State Forest, or climbing the Royal Columns at Oak Creek Wildlife area, Washington’s state-managed public lands and waters connect us to nature through the many recreational activities we enjoy. Over the years, Mountaineers have been strong champions for Washington’s state parks and recreation areas and the outdoor opportunities they provide.

This year’s legislative session is moving quickly, and the legislature is busy negotiating and passing the 2023-35 state budget. Lawmakers are considering many proposals that would impact public lands and outdoor recreation, and your voice is critical to ensure that the outdoors receive strong support.

                                                            Take Action

The Mountaineers advocates on issues affecting state public lands in Washington because our programs and activities frequently occur on state parks and lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), State Parks, or the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). Our close proximity to the State Capitol in Olympia affords us greater access to state legislators, leading to a more immediate impact compared to federal advocacy.

Public lands and outdoor recreation remain popular bipartisan issues in the legislature, and there are opportunities to conserve public lands and advance sustainable and equitable access to the outdoors this year. We’re excited to share more about what we’re advocating for this legislative session.

Funding for State Land Managers

Last year, we celebrated a landmark win for state lands in the passage of $15 million in ongoing funding for the State Parks, DNR, and DFW to begin tackling the deferred maintenance backlog on their lands. These resources are already making a difference by helping land managers hire additional staff, restore decrepit facilities at trailheads and campgrounds, and maintain roads and trails critical to recreation access. Trail maintenance is already underway at the Mount Si and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Natural Resource Conservation Areas. The Department of Natural Resources has hired six new field positions focused on maintenance work and the Department of Fish and Wildlife has added more than twelve new permanent staff positions.

This year, the conservation and recreation community is asking the legislature to ensure that all three agencies receive the intended $5 million in ongoing funding for maintenance and operations.

Managing Recreation Impacts on State Lands

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a 12% increase in visitation to state-managed public lands in Washington. Growing recreation impacts coupled with other stressors such as climate change and land development threaten the sustainability of our cherished outdoor spaces. The public, stakeholders, agencies, and Tribal governments have voiced concern about the impact of increased visitation on natural and cultural resources.

This year, we’re excited to lead advocacy efforts through Outdoor Alliance Washington to support $10.7 million in funding for State Parks, DNR, and DFW to collaboratively measure and manage recreation impacts on their lands.

Specifically, this funding would support the development of a methodology and framework for assessing, monitoring, and adaptively managing recreation impacts on the ecological condition of state land. State Parks, DNR, and DFW would be directed to work jointly to develop these tools and to collaborate with tribal governments to ensure cultural resources and cultural practices are considered and incorporated into management plans.

This effort would further address Tribal concerns about negative impacts to natural and cultural resources by funding additional law enforcement officers at DNR to better protect our state public lands and waters.

No Child Left Inside and the WWRP

Washington’s No Child Left Inside grant program (NCLI) provides under-served youth with quality opportunities to experience the natural world. Through our NCLI-supported Mountain Workshops program, we partner with local youth-serving organizations to expose youth to the outdoors and help them develop transferable outdoor skills. NCLI is currently funded at $4.5 million, but there are about $12.3 million in pending application requests. We’re supporting a budget request to double the program’s annual funding to $9 million in the 2023-2025 budget. This increase would help better address the need for NCLI programming and lead to greater impact.

The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) is Washington’s largest public funding source for outdoor community projects. For over 30 years, the WWRP has been the State’s premier tool for conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities, providing matching funds to create new parks, protect wildlife habitat, and preserve working lands. This year, we’re asking lawmakers to fully fund the WWRP by including $158 million for the program in the 2023-25 budget.

Revitalizing DNR’s Trust Land Transfer Program

The Department of Natural Resource’s Trust Land Transfer (TLT) program is the agency’s only tool to transfer state trust lands for conservation, recreation, and other community uses. Through TLT, the State can conserve lands with high ecological value and public benefits.

Mt. Si, Blanchard Mountain, Deception Pass State Park, and many other popular recreation destinations were conserved thanks to TLT. The program has seen dwindling funding and support in recent years, but is poised to make an important impact on efforts to protect Washington’s forests and the many benefits they provide.

This year, we’re advocating for a $25 million capital budget request to fund 10 priority transfers of trust lands across the state. We’re also supporting a bill (HB 1460) that would revitalize and increase the transparency of the program, allowing DNR to better manage its diverse portfolio of lands and more easily transfer land to local communities.

Take Action

It’s because of recreationists like you that we continue to see broad support for public lands and recreation in Olympia each year. Our conservation team is monitoring the progress of these and other issues. We’re also engaging with partners and agency staff on a weekly basis to assess additional opportunities to elevate the voice of the human-powered recreation community for outdoor advocacy.

When it comes to state-level advocacy, it only takes a few personalized constituent letters to elevate an issue with a lawmaker and spur them to take action. We need your voice to secure critical funding for programs that conserve forest land, connect under-served youth to the outdoors, and better measure and manage recreation impacts on state-managed lands.

Use our action tool below to craft a personal message to your senator and representatives and share why continuing to invest in Washington’s outdoors is important to you.

Take Action

This year’s session is slated to conclude in mid-April, so we’ll follow up in a couple months to share more about how these priorities fared. If you’re curious about an issue or program that wasn’t covered above, we’d love to hear from you.