Washington State agencies are bracing for another tough round of cuts and compromises as the Governor prepares her budget proposal for the 2011-13 biennium. A recent news release by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) announced a projected loss of $1.2 billion in General Fund Revenue for the remainder of the current biennium (2009-11) and the next budget period (2011-13).
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has long provided free access to popular trails and destinations such as Mount Si, Blanchard Forest, Cypress Island, and Tiger Mountain thanks to allotments from the state’s general funds. As budget cuts loom, DNR and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) are jointly proposing a Recreation Reform Bill to supplement slashed budgets with user-generated funding. The agencies insist that the alternative to new user fees is the inevitable closure and reduction of services at recreation sites across the state.
A central feature of the proposed legislation is the “Explore Washington Pass” for access to WDFW and DNR lands. Under the proposal, the cost of an annual Explore Washington Pass would be $40 per person for general users age 19 and older, or $5 for those purchasing fishing or hunting licenses or a watchable-wildlife package. Short-term passes would be available at $20 for a three-day pass; $15 for a two-day pass; and $10 for a one-day pass. Revenue from the new pass, estimated at $5.5 million annually, would be split between WDFW and DNR for land management capital, operational, maintenance and enforcement needs.
Unlike the Northwest Forest Pass or State Sno-Park Pass, the Explore Washington Pass is a per-person fee, not per vehicle. Whether you are biking, hiking, climbing, or launching your boat on DNR or WDFW property, each person in your party will need to carry an Explore Washington Pass, even if you do not arrive by vehicle. The legislation also includes a mandatory $200 license for all organized events on DNR or WDFW lands. As written, the legislation could require licenses for Mountaineers courses on DNR lands and also require that all participants carry day or annual Explore Washington Passes. One proposal from the Mountaineers suggests that the club could contribute to the maintenance of state lands by harnessing our volunteer stewardship force in lieu of prohibitive event license fees.
As the legislation evolves, the Mountaineers is in discussion with DNR and WDFW to help determine a fair and reasonable proposal that will keep our state lands accessible to the public. You can share your thoughts about the proposal or learn more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or submit comments directly to the DNR by contacting email@example.com.
What lands will be affected by the proposed fees?