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2010 Legislative Session: It's done.

Posted by Jonathan Guzzo at Apr 22, 2010 09:03 PM |

Well, that certainly took awhile.

Olympia Capitol

A couple of weeks after the close of the 2010 legislative session, I thought I would take a few moments and talk about some unfinished business. The sausage factory has closed for another few months. Workers gone home, floor mopped, product shrink wrapped into neat little packages.

As you probably know by now, the combined efforts of many hikers and other recreationists saved Mount Si and 21 other important DNR recreation sites from the chopping block for another hiking season. But I'd like to cast some light on a couple of other issues that still loom large.

The first is HB 3132, sponsored by Representative Kevin Van De Wege (D-24), which failed to pass. That bill would have axed the Columbia Gorge Commission, charged with overseeing the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.

While the Commission would have gone away, the legislature has no power over the Gorge's underlying federal status as a scenic area, so management would have been turned over to the Gorge counties, including Clark, Skamania and Klickitat. The bill passed the House, but was returned by the Senate and reintroduced in its original form to be taken up in the next session.  HB 3132 would have saved some money - the Commission is not free - but the Gorge is a critical state resource and needs a stand-alone management authority. 

Budget writers, in the final throes of the session, ended up funding the Commission at a level more consistent with the Senate's bill - cutting the Agency by $24,000 through staffing reductions and temporary layoffs, rather than the much deeper House-approved cuts. The final total for the Commission was $1,756,000.

The failure of HB 2480, which would have given DNR authority to charge day-use fees on recreation sites, did not make it out of Committee in the Senate. Over the course of the summer, we'll be working with DNR and other trail users to help craft a proposal that is fair to the majority of trail users and closer to the original intent of the Sustainable Recreation Work Group. Along the way, we'll talk with legislators about other elements of the Work Group's recommendations - potential including a new class of trust lands geared at funding recreation.

Finally, the most pressing unresolved issue on our radar right now is the ongoing transfer of NOVA funds to State Parks. While the State Parks and the Recreation Commission is hardly in clover right now, with license tab renewal contributions coming in at lower-than-projected levels, they'll still be able to keep parks open this year. It's incumbent upon the legislature to return NOVA dollars back to the Recreation and Conservation Office to fulfill grants and fund DNR's direct NOVA appropriation. Those funds will be critical to DNR's health in the long term.  

As always, we'll keep you posted and let you know how you can help.  Please don't hesitate to contact me at jonathan@wta.org for more information on our state and federal legislative work.

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