Action Alert! Thank Lawmakers for Prioritizing Public Lands in the 2024 State Budget

The 2024 state legislative session wrapped up last week, and we have some good news to share coming out of Olympia. Learn about new investments in Washington’s public lands and the recreational opportunities they provide, and thank your legislators for championing the outdoors this year.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
March 13, 2024
Action Alert! Thank Lawmakers for Prioritizing Public Lands in the 2024 State Budget
View from the Oyster Dome Trail on Blanchard Mountain, managed by the Department of Natural Resources.

State-managed public lands like Blanchard Mountain, Mount Si, and Tieton’s Royal Columns connect us to nature through the recreational activities we enjoy in all seasons. With Mountaineers programs and activities frequently occurring on state lands, each legislative session we advocate for priority bills and funding requests that improve conservation and recreation at the state level.

The 2024 legislative session recently came to a close, with lawmakers passing a final supplemental state budget. Despite the brief 60-day session, a constrained financial outlook, and many important legislative priorities across myriad issues, the outdoors remained a bipartisan priority in Olympia. Lawmakers secured additional investments in our public lands and waters and passed legislation that will improve recreation and stewardship of state lands.

Over the last two months, our conservation team testified before the House and Senate and coordinated with state land managers and key partners. Mountaineers staff and members also met with lawmakers and their staff by participating in partner lobby days. Before we dig into the results, take a moment to thank lawmakers for investing in the outdoors again this year using our easy action form.

                                              Thanks Lawmakers

This year, we focused our advocacy on a few key pieces of legislation where leveraging the voices of more than 16,000 Mountaineers could make a difference and help improve recreation and stewardship of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) lands, respectively. Two of these bills were passed by the full legislature and will be signed into law by the Governor in the near future.

Priority Legislation: Sustainable Recreation and Stewardship

Improving Group Recreation on DNR Lands

House Bill 2165 will allow the Department of Natural Resources to charge fees for recreational use permits for groups led by commercial entities like trail running races and nonprofits like The Mountaineers - something State Parks and the Department of Fish and Wildlife already do. The Mountaineers secures permits for our courses that take place on DNR-managed lands - places like Mount Si, Cougar Mountain, and Blanchard Mountain. DNR’s current permitting system is inconsistent, difficult to navigate, and unpredictable. This can result in unnecessary permit denials, impacting our ability to teach outdoor skills on DNR lands. 

We supported allowing DNR to charge fees so they can fund the staffing necessary to administer permits and improve the consistency, predictability, and transparency of the permit process. Mountaineers staff testified in favor of this bill before both House and Senate committees. After the bill becomes law, DNR will convene a process for determining the fee structure, and we expect recreation stakeholder groups to be included.

Volunteer Stewardship on DFW Lands

Each year, our members give back to the lands we love by volunteering to repair trails, maintain climbing sites, and restore shorelines through stewardship activities. Unfortunately, not all state land managers have the same ability to partner with nonprofits and leverage volunteer-led stewardship on their lands. We’re glad to see the legislature pass Senate Bill 5785, which will enable the Department of Fish and Wildlife to enter into master stewardship agreements with nonprofits, leading to more opportunities for the recreation community to steward lands and waters managed by DFW.

Budget Investments: Conserving State Forests and Parks

Last year, we helped secure historic investments for priority programs like No Child Left Inside and the Washington Washington and Recreation Program (WWRP). The Washington State government operates on a two-year budget, so this year’s legislative session passed minor investments that supplement last year’s budget. We’re stoked to see the legislature continue a strong trend of conserving our state’s forests. Several of the additional investments secured in this year’s budget draw on revenue generated by the state’s Climate Commitment Act. The availability of this revenue moving forward is subject to the outcome of a statewide initiative on the ballot this November that would repeal provisions of the CCA.

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. Building on significant investments from last year, lawmakers included $10.8 million for nine TLT projects that will protect salmon habitat and globally rare forests and increase outdoor recreation access on over 2,200 acres of land. TLT is now poised to help DNR conserve lands with high ecological value and public benefits in places like Blakely Island, the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, and along the Cascade River in the North Cascades. Here are some other conservation highlights from the final state budget:

  • $2 million for forest health projects on Department of Fish and Wildlife lands.
  • $5.7 million for the Recreation and Conservation Office’s Community Forests Program funding to help rural communities conserve working forests.
  • $3.5 million in additional funding for the Nisqually State Park project - Washington's newest state park.

Thank Lawmakers

These legislative wins will help conserve natural resources and enhance sustainable outdoor recreation during a time of soaring visitation and growing climate impacts. Celebrate these wins with your legislators by thanking them for prioritizing public lands and outdoor recreation in Washington. A brief, personalized note sharing why this funding is important will help build support for our advocacy moving forward.


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