Opinion

Red, blue, east, west say the same thing: Invest in our quality of life

Bipartisan thinking has taken a back seat in government. It’s sad when you think about the many things Washingtonians agree on regardless of their political party.

For example, there’s a little-known but very powerful program called the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) which we co-founded 23 years ago as an antidote to just the kind of cynicism we see today.

A recent poll in the newly redistricted 8th Congressional District, currently held by Congressman Dave Reichert, backs that up. Conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, the nation’s largest Republican polling firm, the poll found that 84 percent of voters in the redrawn 8th, which includes both sides of the Cascades, share a strong conservation ethic. Urban or rural, east or west, Republican or Democrat—the results differ only by the margin of error.

This shared ethic diverges sharply from the narrative of political pundits and campaign ads. To our dismay, we have watched environmental issues grow increasingly polarized in this country. But the Northwest is different. We’ve always had leaders on both sides of the aisle who have stood up for our natural heritage, and we are gratified that this is true in this year’s gubernatorial race as well.

Why the bipartisan support in these ultra-partisan times? Because the WWRP helps local communities build parks where abandoned dumps once stood. It provides funds to help keep our farms working to provide “Grown in Washington” produce.

The WWRP protects natural habitat so that our children’s children will be able to interact with nature the way we do, not by seeing it on a computer screen. And with more than half of all WWRP grants helping to protect or restore Puget Sound, these are essential investments.

Over the last 23 years, through more than 1,000 state grants that leverage local, federal and private money, the WWRP has conserved more than 350,000 acres across Washington state, from Bellingham to the Blue Mountains, from Colville to Cape Disappointment. More importantly, it created access to our land and waters so hunters, anglers, bird watchers, hikers, cyclists and people like you can enjoy our state the way it was meant to be experienced.

No wonder candidates on both sides of the aisle support the WWRP.

Public Opinion Strategies also found that 67 percent of people in the 8th Congressional District say we have not done enough to conserve our land and water in the state for all to enjoy. This is not surprising when you learn that the WWRP received its lowest appropriation ever in the state’s last two-year budget cycle.

Funded in the state capital construction budget, the WWRP creates jobs while protecting our quality of life. Furthermore, each project is reviewed and prioritized by experts, not politicians. That is why more than 275 organizations such as the Boeing Co., Weyerhaeuser, the Washington Environmental Council and the Washington Realtors support the program every year.

There is never enough money available to fund all the requests, which is understandable in these difficult economic times. Yet we remain bolstered by the fact that seven in 10 of those polled believe more money should be made available for WWRP grants.

This year, voters are experiencing what may be the most vitriolic campaign season yet, with major dollars flowing into our state from both political parties. So when you start to hear that ominous background music signaling another negative ad, think of Washington’s great outdoors and what people on both sides of the aisle are doing to protect it.

Dan Evans, a Republican, and Mike Lowry, a Democrat, are former governors of Washington.

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