Legislative Update April 2004

Submitted by Patti Wible-Crouch

 

As the session winds down in Olympia for 2004 there is good news for equestrians in Washington State.   An area near and dear to many of our hearts that was in peril last year for lack of funding will NOT close; Sahara Creek facility, otherwise known as Elbe.  Appropriations from DNR are deemed sufficient to continue to provide services for this area. 

 

Another excerpt from HB2459 (supplemental budget bill) which passed bother chambers on the last day of this year’s session.  $450,000 of the general fund-state appropriation for fiscal year 2005 is provided solely to maintain department-managed trails, campsites, and other areas or lands that are open for public use.  The Department of Natural Resources shall ensure that these sites will remain open and operating at their current level of service. 

Thanks to Jeff Chapman of Buckhorn for following this. 

 

Other budget news provided by Terry Kohl,  for Gjurasic and Kohl Consultants show a large increase in DNR’s budget 2004, about $20 mil to the general fund increasing to a total of $54,189,000.  2005 budget will drop back to $36,554,000; still an increase of $6 mil from 2003.  

 

State Parks and Recreation Commission also has a small increase in general funds; our state budget is a total appropriation of $104,042,000.  Included with 2004 Policy Changes under Recreation Site and Trail Maintenance:

“ Funding is provided to avoid closures to camp sites and trails maintained by the department.  This additional funding along with increases provided in the biennial budget from the Off Road Vehicle Account more than restores 2003-2005 reductions in General Fund-State support for camp sites and trails.  If additional funding is required to avoid closures to camp sites and trails during the 2003-2005 biennium, the department is directed to reduce expenditures for agency administration by 5% and redeploy those general fund resources to the recreation program prior to closing any camp sites or trails.”

 

Of interest to hunters and wildlife enthusiasts; is Critical Wildlife Disease Testing continued funding:  begun in 2002 to help control critical diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and elk and swan lead poisoning. 

 

This news flash also from Terry Kohl; State Rep. Mike Cooper, D-Edmonds, announced his candidacy for state lands commissioner Wednesday, March 10.  He’ll be taking on moderate republican Doug Sutherland, a longtime Pierce County politician completing his first term.  “I’m running because it’s time to chart a new course.  Washington needs to manage its trust lands for future generations, not merely for short-term gain,” Cooper said in a news announcement.  “What’s left of our old growth on state trust lands should be off limits,” he added. 

 

A proviso in the supplemental capital budget was altered in budget negotiations this week to allow cuts in Western Washington old-growth forests while an inventory study is carried out.  Cooper also plans to push for a timber-certification program for state-cut timber that requires environmentally friendly or “green” forestry practices.  Such a policy is under consideration by the department under Sutherland. 

 

Some Bills that Died:  Trailer fee increase, legalizing a motor vehicle, travel trailer and boat trailer combination (can you imagine?!).

 

From Jim Archambeault-Recreation Planner for the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests, an email re: erroneous information for recreational horse use on the Wenatchee National Forest.  Excerpt from his email: The only on-going efforts on the Okanogan and Wenatchee Nat’l Forests with regard to Wilderness or non-wilderness use by horses are these:

1)       The Okanogan, Wenatchee and Colville NF’s are jointly revising their existing Forest Plans, as are all National Forests in Oregon and Washington.  The Revision is just beginning, and there will be opportunities for public comment.  To keep abreast of the Plan revision visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/colville/cow/

2)       The Methow Valley Ranger District is completing an Environmental Assessment (EA) to decide how to re-issue several Special Use Permits to existing Outfitters and Guides, all of whom have long-standing operations in the Pasayten and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Areas.  The EA will be out for public review is 6-8 weeks (end of March?) The EA will only discuss re re-authorization of the existing Permit holder’s operations, and will not make any decisions about the amount of private recreational uses or access to the Forest. 

 

Here is follow-up on a couple of other issues;(1) regarding the proposal that BLM is considering the leasing and fencing of 200 acres in the Ancient Lakes area.  Karen Rosario forwarded the following from Angela Link, Rangeland Specialist, BLM.  “Regarding allotment 3600836 on Babcock Bench;  If you are interested in becoming involved in the possible changes, or would just like to voice your concerns I would invite you to write to our office at this address”

James Fisher, BLM

Wenatchee Resource Area

915 Walla Walla Ave

Wenatchee, Wa.  98801-1521

 

(2) Dosewallips Road Washout; if you ride or want to ride in this gorgeous area then listen up!  There is currently debate by the Olympic National Forest whether to rebuild the Dosewallips Road.  Jeff Chapman, Buckhorn chapter has been following this issue along with many other active BCHW members in the Peninsula area.  In January 2002 FR2610 was washed out by a winter storm closing the road the last five miles to the campground.  This cut off access to the 20,000 + visitors using this arterial to visit the Park.  Horsemen had a place to park there, and effectively all pack stock were also cut off from using the access for volunteer, commercial and ONP pack crews.  There was a temporary foot trail bypass installed.  In February 2003 the Forest Service released an Environmental Assessment for public review.  Some trails groups are hoping to keep the closure to preserve the new low use (since much of the public is blocked), and keep the forest pristine from a new road being developed. 

We’ll keep updating on this and other issues as the news comes in.