North Kitsap County’s open space and recreation grant requests have so far fared very well in the Senate and House versions of our state budget negotiations. Kitsap Forest and Bay Coalition is very grateful for what has been proposed by both houses for our projects in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program budget.
However, the two houses arrived at their budget funding amounts for all of Kitsap County and the state utilizing different methods. The House followed a decades-long protocol of strict adherence to a nationally-recognized project ranking system. The Senate proposal of $39.6 million does not follow an agreed-upon process and would be the lowest funding level in Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program history.
Each budget year is different and, as is often the case, there are proposals to alter project selection criteria. Thus far, the criteria has held fast against these challenges and, in so doing, have maintained the non-partisan integrity of the system itself. The projects with the best qualifications receive funding.
I urge Senate budget writers to restore procedural protocol to the project selection process for the Wildlife and Recreation Program and to increase program funding to match the $75 million in the House and governor’s budget. Funding at this level will not only fully fund the four Kitsap Forest & Bay projects but also fund critical projects elsewhere in Kitsap County, including expanding the Stavis Natural Resources Conservation Area near Seabeck. Stavis forest lands are as highly valued by Central Kitsap residents as Pope Resources lands are cherished by North Kitsap residents.
We applaud Sen. Christine Rolfes for her continued support and work to maintain workable Wildlife and Recreation Program funding levels and to adhere to the prioritized project list developed through statewide consensus. We urge other senators to support the House recommendation for funding and project priority.
Kitsap Forest and Bay Coalition