Senate Capital Budget Eliminates Programs that Help Nature and People

Statement from Mike Stevens, Washington State Director for The Nature Conservancy

OLYMPIA—The Nature Conservancy released the following statement from its Washington State Director, Mike Stevens, regarding today’s release of the State Senate’s proposed capital budget.

We are disappointed that the State Senate cut or eliminated so many programs in their proposed capital budget that would have benefited communities and people. Conservation of our state’s lands and waters not only protects wildlife and clean drinking water, but also helps protect our communities from the increasing fires, floods and droughts that our state is already experiencing.

We are particularly troubled by the Senate’s proposal to eliminate the Floodplains by Design program, a multi-benefits approach to flood risk reduction, habitat protection and recreational access that helps protect communities against catastrophic flood events in a cost effective way. We have seen this innovative approach transform the way cities, counties and the state do business to the benefit of communities and taxpayers. With the House proposing increased funding in recognition of the program’s effectiveness, we respectfully suggest that the Senate has missed the mark by zeroing out this critical program.

Additionally, the Senate’s proposal to remove all habitat projects from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program would set our state back. Our state is attractive to businesses like Amazon and Boeing in part because of the great outdoors, protected in part through the Wildlife and Recreation Program. With Washington’s population exploding over the next decade, it is critical for us to invest early and often in our great outdoors to ensure that our kids and grandkids enjoy the same quality of life and access to the outdoors that we do.

We are also concerned about the Senate’s deep cuts to clean water and salmon protection programs like the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Program and the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program. Slowing the pace of restoration for our state’s waters could set us back.

The Senate budget even reduces funding from the Washington Coastal Restoration Initiative from the Houses’ proposal of $8.2 million, a locally driven effort by a coalition of fishermen, local businesses, county commissioners and tribes to restore coastal forests and streams in a region with some of the highest unemployment in the state.

We recognize that there were many difficult budget decisions to be made, but these cuts will cost our state more in both the short and long term. Our scientists and field staff in every corner of the state are witnessing the increased impacts of drought, wildfires and flooding on Washington communities, businesses and families. Stepping back from innovative, cost-effective natural solutions right now bodes poorly for our communities and economies. We urge elected leaders to take note and restore funding for these critical programs.
— Washington State Director, Mike Stevens