Hundreds of thousands of people hike at Tiger Mountain each year. How many of them know that they are hiking on lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources? How many of them know a big part of Tiger Mountain is a working forest?
Washington'sDepartment of (DNR) was created to manage state timber trust lands that help pay for public schools and universities. All told, the agency manages more than 3 million acres and generates $200 million each year for the state.
Somewhere along the way, recreation got thrown into the mix, and hikers won big: Mount Si, Tiger Mountain, Gothic Basin, to name a few. Unfortunately, someone forgot to figure out how to pay for it. This year, due to a series of severe budget cuts, DNR has a mere $200,000 to manage more than 1,000 miles of trail and 143 campgrounds spread all over the state.
The agency has had to close campgrounds and cut services at many locations, but no one's talking about putting up a gate at Mount Si. Yet.
Two years ago, the legislature called for a special committee to look at the long-term management of recreation on DNR lands. Specifically, the Sustainable Recreation Working Group was asked to look at how to fund recreation on DNR lands. WTA's executive director Elizabeth Lunney represented hikers on that committee, serving alongside a host of other interests, including ORV riders, legislators, conservationists and local landowners.
DNR has recently released a draft of the committee's recommendations, and has been gathering public feedback. We told you about a series of public meetings that were just held, and there are other opportunities to comment on the various funding options on the table. Ideas in play range from the creation of a special statutory trust to charging user fees at campgrounds and trailheads.
Once it has feedback from the public, the Sustainable Recreation Working Group will finalize a set of recommendations for the legislature to consider during its 2010 session. There are things the legislature can do during this upcoming session that could begin to reverse some of the damage these budget cuts have done to DNR--not the least of which would be to restore the NOVA fund.
If you care about these public lands, here's what you can do:
- Mark your calendars for Hiker Lobby on January 27th. DNR funding will be at the top of our list of concerns for the legislature next session.
- Learn more about DNR and WTA's efforts to increase its funding here.
More information from the DNR is here: