Trees give us so much: Pinecones, oxygen, the paper used to print tawdry romance novels. Surely, then, we can spare a few measly million dollars to support Washington wildlife.
The Washington Recreation and Conservation Office is asking for $140 million (the cost of an NFL franchise or a Las Vegas newspaper) to fund the state’s Wildlife & Recreation program from 2021 to 2023, and conservation groups are mobilizing to support that request. But this is about more than just saving the endangered Marbled murrelet — it’s about rescuing the state’s economy, protecting human health, and addressing decades of social injustice.
One impact of the pandemic has been that more people than ever have been inspired to spend time outdoors, opting to flee from large crowds and instead spend time in the sun and fresh air of nature. But that’s also led to overcrowding in parks, placing a greater burden on resources at a time when there’s less money to go around than ever.
That’s where the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program comes in. The WWRP channels money to projects that directly address the demand for outdoor recreation in the state, and recent research shows that the funding is money well spent. In Washington, every dollar spent on outdoor recreation supports $1.52 in economic activity — and that’s in addition to the health benefits of spending time outdoors, and the ecological benefits of taking care of our natural areas.
Enjoy trails through nature? The WWRP built a bunch of those. Having a good time at your local parks? You can probably thank the WWRP. Spending a day at the beach? WWRP projects expand access to coastal areas. Have you seen a butterfly lately? The WWRP helps maintain urban nature projects that foster local flora and fauna. They’re like the forest spirit in Princess Mononoke, with plants sprouting from the earth everywhere they step. (Also I would not be surprised if pissing them off resulted in the damnation of your very soul.)
In addition, the WWRP addresses historical injustices when it comes to who can access nature. Communities of color have often been left out of conservation efforts (they’re three times as likely to be situated in “nature-deprived” areas) and the WWRP has specifically tailored their projects to prioritize areas in need.
So! This is all a very long-winded way of saying that the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition is gathering signatures in support of the $140 million request. And unless you’re looking forward to many more months of sitting inside, unable to go look at a tree because the parks are too under-funded to handle the influx of visitors, you’d better go add your name.