Key Funding Takeaways in New State Budget

Funding for key WA State conservation and recreation programs is a 'win' but support for state lands is disappointing.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
May 19, 2019

You’ve already heard from us a couple times this year about budget processes for Washington State. In February, we shared The Mountaineers funding priorities and in late April, we encouraged you to take action to speak up against proposed budget cuts – thank you to the 1,100 of you who did! Here’s where things landed with funding for state lands and outdoor programs for the next two years:

Overall, we were heartened to see support and funding for two programs important to outdoor recreation and conservation here in Washington: No Child Left Inside and Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

However, funding for state lands continues to be neglected and  in decline, along with a lack of support for recreation on these landscapes. While both WA Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and WA State Parks received funding towards important priorities, budgets left these agencies with less funding than requested, let alone what they need.

decreases in funding support for land agencies

Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

DNR’s Sustainable Recreation Program was funded at $2 million, well below the $8.5 million for which we advocated, and this low capital budget funding is a disappointment. We are concerned that DNR is being given less resources to support recreation on their state trust lands. One piece of good news is the Teanaway Community Forest received its full request for $1.8 million towards maintenance of the popular recreation area.

State Parks

We supported WA State Parks $130.6 million capital budget requests, of which $35.4 million was funded for capital (new) projects. Overall, the State Parks budget fell about $5 million short of funds needed for operation (due to a transfer of revenues from the littler tax). State Parks did receive $10 million to maintain park services and $1.5 millon to address maintenance backlogs.  

WA Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)

We supported funding of $30 million to fill an  operating shortfall and an additional $28 million to improve services for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Although many recreationists may not realize, WDFW manages many recreational resources throughout the state, including high-use climbing areas like Vantage and Tieton, mountain biking areas like Joe Watt Canyon and Manastash Ridge, and hundreds of kayaking water access sites. The agency needs funding to close their budget shortfall and continue to support these resources, especially for sports like climbing, which only continue to grow in popularity. The budget included $24 million, short of filling the funding gap and less than half of what the agency needs.

Overall, we are concerned about the trend of underfunding our state land management agencies, as well as the lack of funding for recreation on these landscapes. 

Good News for Recreation and Conservation Programs

Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP)

In partnership with the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition and many other organizations across the state, we advocated for a $130 million (capital) budget request for the WWRP, a critical funding source for hiking trails and the largest source of funding for bike and ski trails in Washington. The final budget included $85 million in funding for WWRP, the second-highest amount it has ever received (though still below the $130 million requested)! The $85 million for WWRP will fund 100 high-priority conservation and recreation projects, including key improvements in areas like Raging River State Forest, Tiger Mountain, and new toilets in Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area.

No Child Left Inside (NCLI)

No Child Left Inside provides grants to support efforts to get kids outside. We advocated for $1.5 million for this program, overseen by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. We are thrilled that NCLI received the full $1.5 million.

As we look to inspire future outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists, this program is important for helping make first-connections to the outdoors. Thanks to the NCLI funding, The Mountaineers was able to increase outreach programming in the South Sound Area by adding 4 new youth serving partnerships including a ten program series with the Pierce County Juvenile Court. This funding provides over 500 youth experiences with youth serving partner organizations.

Thank you!

We thank you for your continued engagement in our state's budgeting process. Looking ahead toward the next cycle in 2021, we will continue to work with partner organizations and state agencies to find ways to support sustainable recreation on state lands.