7 local conservation programs at risk under Inslee budget

Five important recreation and conservation programs in Thurston County are on the chopping block based on Gov. Jay Inslee’s $75.5 million capital budget proposal for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP).

All five are critical to the South Sound and deserve consideration.

The WWRP is a coalition of 275 diverse organizations that includes business, hunting and fishing interests, conservation, and farming groups. It ranks community projects for funding with a broad and bipartisan perspective, and distributes grants funded by the state capital budget.

It has requested $90 million to fund 124 projects around the state, including seven in Thurston County. Inslee’s $75.5 million would fund only two, and even they could be threatened if the Legislature trims the capital budget further.

The five in danger under Inslee’s proposal are the Capitol Olympic Vista Park project, a habitat restoration project on the Deschutes River with the Capitol Land Trust, expansion of utility campsites at Millersylvania State Park and two projects at Woodard Bay.

Inslee’s proposal would fund a grant to acquire a key property next to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge and a state Department of Fish and Wildlife project to eliminate invasive species from South Puget Sound Prairie areas.

The WWRP knew it was reaching high this year, given that recession cost cutting had trimmed its funding to $42 million last year, and departing Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget proposed just $65 million.

But the group makes a good argument that outdoor recreation in our state supports 115,000 jobs and contributes $11.7 billion into the economy.

And who doesn’t want to see the derelict buildings on the isthmus removed?