Monday, April 15, 2013

Wish State Parks a happier birthday

By Sarah Krueger, Public Lands Programs Manager

Peshastin Pinnacles.  Photo by Todd Gordon.
Washington is home to an incredibly diverse State Park system – where you can climb the sandstone spires of Peshastin Pinnacles, paddle the dynamic currents of Deception Pass or witness annual eagle migrations along the Skagit River at Rockport.  2013 marks the 100th birthday of Washington State Parks – but there seems to be little to celebrate.  A recent Seattle Times article by Lynda Mapes chronicles the demise of funding for state parks.
Realizing that Discover Pass sales alone won’t keep our parks open, the Washington State Parks Commission requested $27 million in general funding – however both the Senate and the House operating budgets fall short in their requests for the agency ($16.4 and $23.7 million, respectively).  For more about the state budget, see the recent post by volunteer Robert Dengel.
As budget negotiations begin behind closed doors for the coming weeks, the legislature needs to hear from constituents who care about keeping our State Parks open.    Contact your representatives today and ask them to support the House operating budget request of $23.7 million for State Parks.  Send an email through the Washington State Legislature website or call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.600.  A personal message of support will take five minutes – but can mean millions to our State Parks!

Show Me the Money - State Budget Process Underway

By Robert Dengel, Outdoor Advocate Volunteer

The various legislative budgets are beginning to being submitted. There are two types of budgets: 1) operating (day to day running of an agency) and 2) capital (construction and other development/conservation projects). While none of these initial proposals are likely to be the final budget, they do however begin to show everybody’s initial starting point. To overly generalize the budget proposals, the House Democratic Majority and the Governor are looking to avoid budget cuts by closing tax loopholes and extending taxes set to expire, a move the Senate Majority Coalition (Republicans and two Democrats) are opposed to. Please note that this year the Governor has provided a list of priorities rather than an entire budget proposal. The budgets (and priority list) are an opportunity for each of the major players to show where their priorities are by how much money they provide to an area.  So where does ensuring access and protection to the great outdoors land in the budgets?

State Parks 
The Senate Operating Budget identifies only $16.4 million of general funds in their budget for State Parks, this was done in part by sweeping funds from the Waste Reduction, Recycling and Litter Control Tax. The House Operating Budget, as well as the Governor’s priorities identifies $23.7 million of General Funds for State Parks.  Anything less than $23.7 million is expected to result in the closure of some State Parks, with $27.2 million needed to begin addressing maintenance backlogs, according to the Washington State Parks Commission.  State Parks reliance on state general funds is a result of lower than expected Discover Pass sales. This problem of funding for State Parks is highlighted in a recent story in the Olympian.

On a quick note: two Discover Pass bills which are begin tracked continue to move forward in the legislative process and remain in the House chamber for consideration. SB 5097 (Spouse combined hours) SSB 5289 (Revamps multiple aspect of the Discover Pass, including bulk sales). 

Dept. of Natural Resource and Dept. Fish and Wildlife Managed Lands
Both agencies appear to have received their usual amount of funding in each Senate and House Operating Budget to support recreation on the lands they managed, including funds from the Discover Pass.  

Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) 
The House Capital Budget provides $70 million for the WWRP grant program that funds parks and conservation throughout the state, based on a scored project list. The Governor wanted $76 million for WWRP in his priority list. The Senate Capital Budget only provides $40 Million for the WWRP project and did initially adhere to the scored project list. The current version of the Senate Capital Budget as passed out of the Ways and Means Committee does adhere to the project list but does not provide funding to WWRP land acquisition grants. Learn more at Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.

The Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account (ALEA)
The ALEA grants exist to protect and enhance aquatic lands, including development of waterfront parks and restoration of estuaries. The House provides $12 million in their Capital Budget, while the Senate provides only $6 million on their Capital Budget. 

More information on the the state budget process can be found in the 2013 Citizen's Guide to the Washington State Budget.  You can view detailed budget proposals at the following links:

House Operating Budget: HB 1057
House Capital Budget: HB 1089

Senate Operating Budget: SB 5034
Senate Capital Budget: SB 5035

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mt. Baker Highway 542 National Forest Service Enhancement Project is open for Your Comments

The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and Mt. Baker Ranger District is currently accepting public comments on a Forest Service Decision Memo for a recreation enhancement project along Mt. Baker Highway State Route 542. On this stretch of highway there is a need to improve access, enhance safety, increase resource protection and refurbish and upgrade existing facilities and dispersed recreation sites.
The purpose of this project is to improve visitor experiences by improving access to recreation sites and maintaining facilities and visitor amenities, providing additional interpretive opportunities and materials, increasing motorist and visitor safety, and providing resource protection at dispersed sites.

The Mt. Baker Highway or State Route 542 (SR 542) is a state highway that runs through National Forest System (NFS) lands from the town of Glacier to the end of the road. The highway is designated a scenic highway by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), and was designated a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1989. The Scenic Byway is
24 miles in length, beginning at the town of Glacier and terminating at Artist Point in the Heather Meadows Recreation Area. The Glacier Public Service Center, gateway to Mt. Baker, is a heavily used information center that serves over 60,000 visitors annually. Existing interpretive facilities, several built by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), and programs along the Mt. Baker Scenic Byway enhance the quality and broaden the scope of experiences for visitors.

Proposed Action 
A brief description of the nine proposed actions to improve the visitors facilities, services and dispersed recreation sites along the highway are listed here:

A. Design and installation of map/orientation and interpretive signs at existing visitor services sites (e.g., campgrounds, picnic areas, trails) along SR 542

B. Improve visitor facilities (e.g., restrooms, signage, and refurbish interior of buildings) at
Glacier Public Service Center

C. Enhance wildlife viewing opportunities (e.g., signage, spotting scope accessibility, interpretive media development) at a variety of points including Heather Meadows
Visitor Center, Wild Goose Trail, and Artist Point

D. Reconstruct and lengthen an existing user created kayak access trail to the North Fork
Nooksack River to reduce resource impacts (e.g., sedimentation), and improve access and safety for users

E. Improve Shuksan Picnic area

F. Improve site accessibility and recreation facilities at Douglas Fir and Silver Fir campgrounds and Heather Meadows

G. Install rock and log barriers at dispersed recreation sites (e.g., Razor Hone) to prohibit vehicular access and protect natural resources while maintaining snowshoe access

H. Install pedestrian crossing safety signs at road crossings (e.g., Nooksack Nordic Ski Area,
Wild Goose Trail)

I.  Install a CXT outdoor toilet in the existing Heather Meadows Parking

Public Comment Guidelines 
If you choose to comment, please submit your written or electronic comments to Theresa Mathis by April 30, 2013. Comments can be sent by mail or hand delivered to Mt. Baker Ranger District, Attention: Debra Pal, 810 State Route 20, Sedro-Woolley, WA, 98284. Comments may also be sent by fax to (360) 856-2632, or by email to comments-pacificnorthwest-mtbaker-snogualmiemtbaker@ Electronic comments must be submitted with the following subject line, "Hwy 542 Enhancement Project", and as part of the actual e-mail message, or in another readable format such as plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), .pdf, or Word (.doc). In cases where no identifiable name is attached to a comment, a verification of identity will be required for appeal eligibility. If using an electronic message, a scanned signature is one way to provide verification. The office business hours for those submitting hand-delivered comments are: 8:00am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

The 30-day public comment period ends April 30th. In order to be eligible to later appeal any decision made regarding the enhancement project a comment must be made during this period.
Please visit the Outdoor Advocates Calendar and use the link provided to add to your calendar.

More information on the project and the preliminary Decision Memo are available at: