Public Lands Win Big in State Legislative Session

The 2022 state legislative session has come to a close, and it’s time to recap developments for public lands and outdoor recreation in Washington. Spoiler alert: we achieved a big win for our state parks and recreation lands - and you helped make it happen!
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
March 12, 2022
Public Lands Win Big in State Legislative Session

The Washington State Legislature just wrapped up its 2022 session on March 10. This year legislators met for a short 60-day session to pass legislation and enact supplemental budgets for our state. Each legislative session, The Mountaineers works with other organizations to advocate for bills and funding requests that improve conservation and recreation in Washington. 

The last two months were a bit of a whirlwind for our conservation team, from testifying at hearings and talking with legislators, to creating opportunities for outdoor recreationists to engage on important initiatives. This year we leveraged our increased staff capacity to dig deeper into state-level conservation and recreation policy, and it helped yield some impressive wins.

Despite the short session, the legislature continued a recent trend of strong support for public lands and outdoor recreation in Washington. Thanks to a budget surplus and effective advocacy by diverse coalitions of conservation and recreation voices, our community secured critical funding to help public lands agencies manage increased visitation. Let’s unpack the results!

Funding for State Public Lands

More people are getting outside on Washington's 6.5 million acres of state parks and public lands, but land managers’ funding has not increased to compensate. As a result, campgrounds, trails, roads, and facilities are in critical need of repairs and upgrades.

Led by strong leadership from the Washington Trails Association, a coalition of conservation and recreation organizations asked the legislature for additional funding to begin tackling the $50-$75 million annual deferred maintenance backlog on state parks and recreation lands.

Personalized letters from Mountaineers and other outdoor enthusiasts underscored to legislators the need to address the critical issue now. Thanks to that advocacy, the legislature approved $15 million in ongoing resources for Washington State Parks, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to address maintenance and operations on their lands.

These resources will allow these agencies to restore decrepit facilities at trailheads and campgrounds across the state, and maintain roads and trails critical to recreation access. The annual, ongoing nature of this funding is unprecedented in Washington. While this investment won’t completely fix the problem right away, it's a great start toward achieving a more sustainable future for the lands and facilities that support booming outdoor recreation in Washington.

Celebrate this victory by thanking your legislators for making game-changing investments in our state public lands. Prioritizing meaningful investments in outdoor recreation will improve the individual recreation experience, as well as the health of our lands and waters. Act now using our easy action tool to thank your legislators.

Thank Your Legislators

Outdoor School for All

Here at The Mountaineers, we’re big believers in the power of outdoor experiences for young people. Our year-round clubs, summer and break camps, after-school opportunities, and youth partnership outreach programs introduce youth to the benefits of the outdoors. That’s why we were particularly excited to see the Outdoor School for All bill (2SHB 2078) pass the legislature this session. 

This legislation will allow every fifth and sixth grader in the state to attend an overnight or day outdoor school program. It also develops the Outdoor Education Experiences program, which would provide competitive grants for tribes and outdoor education providers to provide outdoor experiences. While the details still need to be worked out, we’re hopeful that The Mountaineers programs could be eligible for funding from this initiative. This legislation will make a huge difference to young people across the state, at a time when getting kids outdoors is more important than ever. 

Conserving and Restoring our Forests

In January, we shared information about Keep Washington Evergreen - legislation that would provide a bold framework to conserve and restore our state’s forests amid increased development, intensifying wildfire seasons, and other challenges.

The bill directed the Department of Natural Resources to develop a plan to achieve three important goals by 2040: protecting a million acres of the state’s forestland from development, reforesting one million acres of forests, and restoring the health of one million acres of forests.

Our conservation staff testified at both legislative hearings on the bill, and because of our feedback, a revised version of the bill included language that would have required the framework to consider the outdoor recreation benefits of forestland.

Unfortunately, the bill did not make it out of committee by the policy cut-off deadline due to the challenges of a short legislative session. The bill’s prospects are unclear at this time, but an important conversation about the future of Washington’s forests has been started. Threats to our forests won’t be going away, so we’ll continue to provide updates to our community on this effort.

Thank you

Thanks to an engaged outdoor recreation community in Washington, we helped turn a brief legislative window into meaningful investments in our public lands, and advanced key conversations about the long-term protection of Washington's forests and climate. Join us in thanking state legislators for their support of conservation and recreation, and keep an eye out for newly-funded improvements when you’re out adventuring in Washington’s state parks and other recreation areas.

Thank Your Legislators

Lead image of SEATTLE EXPLORERS cross-country skiing at Lake Easton State Park. Photo by Leslie Silverman.