Olympia Update: Outdoors Legislative Day, bills threaten public lands

January 25, 2017 Chase Gunnell

By Chase Gunnell, Deputy Communications Director

The 2017 session of Washington’s state legislature began earlier this month, and we’ve been busy tracking a number of bills that relate to wildlife and wildlands.

One of our top priorities this session is ensuring that the core of Blanchard State Forest is saved from logging. This is our LAST CHANCE to secure the additional $7.7 million in state funding needed before logging begins. Please contact your legislators today using our simple form: http://bit.ly/SaveBlanchardMtn

We’re also supporting the efforts of our allies in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition to advocate for our state's premier conservation and outdoors fund, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP). It’s important that the WWRP receives full state funding of $120 million to conserve and improve Washington's parks, wildlife habitat, farmland, and outdoor recreation sites.

To help our community connect with elected leaders and show support for the WWRP, a Parks and Great Outdoors Legislative Day is happening on Monday, February 13 in Olympia. Click here to sign up or learn more. We hope to see you there!

WWRC Great Outdoors Legislative Day

2017 Environmental Priorities

In order to support a healthy, sustainable future in our region, we’re also working with our partners in the Environmental Priorities Coalition to advance objectives for this session, including:

  • Ensuring water sustainability for people, farms, and fish,
  • Passing rules to protect Puget Sound and reduce risks from oil spills,
  • Reducing toxic pollution in communities across our region.

Learn more about these priorities, and the bills proposed to advance them, on this webpage. Or get the latest from this Coalition of Washington environmental, conservation and sustainability organizations on Facebook.

Conservation Northwest is a member organization of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition and the Environmental Priorities Coalition, as well as the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy.

Public lands in the crosshairs

In sharp contrast to the progressive work of our coalitions and champions in Olympia this session, we’re also seeing bills introduced that threaten public lands, and the people, fish and wildlife that depend on them.

House Bill 1103 would support the transfer of national forests, parks, wildlife refuges or other public lands to state, county or private control. This proposal by a small group of state lawmakers is part of a risky and radical national movement to undermine our natural heritage and public access to it. Our organization strongly opposes the transfer, sale or giveaway of America’s public lands.

At a time when Washington’s population is growing rapidly, putting increasing pressure on our wild places and wildlife, we need more public lands, not less.

We do not need further studies or committees on this issue. Studies in Washington and numerous other states have already shown that proposals to "transfer" public lands to states or counties not only have no legal or economic merit, but if enacted would quickly lead to selling off our public lands to big corporations and the very wealthy. “No Trespassing” signs would quickly follow.

Some lawmakers are also taking aim at state public lands. House Bill 1008 would significantly constrain the ability of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and other state agencies to acquire new lands for fish, wildlife and people. Certain counties and municipalities have taken issue with Washington’s Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program for state lands, and we agree that policy is in need of reform. However, restricting important agencies and the public lands they manage is not an appropriate step in that process.

At a time when Washington’s population is growing rapidly, putting increasing pressure on our wild places and wildlife, we need more public lands, not less. House Bill 1008 is unnecessary, and counterproductive for ensuring a future with healthy, accessible public lands.

We have let the sponsors and committee chairs responsible for these bills know that Conservation Northwest, and our community of thousands of members and supporters, strongly opposes HB 1103 and HB 1008. While public land advocates should remain vigilant, thankfully, neither of these bills has been scheduled for a hearing and it is unlikely they will find traction this session.

We’re calling on lawmakers to support public lands and our natural heritage. Want to add your voice? Look up your legislators in Olympia using this form and let them know you support public lands.

More information on our work to keep America’s public lands in public hands is available at www.conservationnw.org/publiclands.

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