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Washington DNR update - March

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From the DNR:

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March 2, 2010

Hi, folks:

In today’s message:

· Legislative update

· What can volunteers do to help to keep DNR recreation areas open?

Legislative update

Action in Olympia last week was fast and furious as legislators approach the last day of regular session, which is March 11.

Both the Senate and the House have now provided their own budget proposals to address the state’s $2.8 billion shortfall.

· The Senate budget adds back the $278,000 general fund cut to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Recreation Program budget. These general fund dollars are the sole support for 22 DNR-managed recreational facilities in the state.

· The House budget upholds the Governor’s proposed supplemental budget and eliminates the remaining $278,000-general fund allocation to DNR’s Recreation Program.

All three budgets proposed by the Governor, the Senate, and the House include an additional $200,000 from the ORV fund. This funding will help address the loss of the grant funding we’ve successfully competed for in the past through the Nonhighway and Off-road Vehicle Activities (NOVA) program. Our NOVA grant awards typically brought in $3 million in each two-year budget cycle. This funding helped to pay for maintenance, education, and enforcement at our larger facilities and trails, such as Tahuya, Capitol, and Yacolt State Forests and the Walker Valley ORV Trail System. (For more background on the loss of NOVA funding, see page 2 of our June 12, 2009 email update.)

In the next week and a half, the Senate and House will be negotiating the discrepancies in their respective budgets.

HB 2480 dead this session

Last week, we also learned that DNR’s recreation request legislation (HB 2480) died in the Senate Natural Resources, Ocean and Recreation committee, after passing out of the House. This legislation was based on recommendations from the Sustainable Recreation Work Group.

This was disappointing news, especially after all the hard work by the members of the group and the public. However, getting new bills passed often takes more than one legislative session. Given the current economic climate, we know that the bill’s failure to pass is more a reflection of timing than the merit of the work group’s recommendations or the lack of desire on the part of Legislature to support trail-based outdoor recreation.

What can volunteers do to help to keep DNR recreation areas open?

A lot of you have shared creative ideas with me about how to keep sites open, and many of you have put your ideas into action. For example, as 2009 was coming to an end, the snowmobile community in and around Yakima raised enough funds to keep five Sno-Parks open in the area.

For the past 20 years, DNR has relied more and more on dedicated, hard-working volunteers to help keep our recreation areas open, safe, and enjoyable. Volunteers are a fundamental part of our mission to provide recreation opportunities, especially as our budget continues to decline. In fact, under DNR’s current operations model, the amount of time volunteers donate each year is equal to 44 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. DNR’s Recreation Program employs just 29 FTE positions. Through grant funding, DNR has employed another 15 FTEs. The grant-funded positions perform the majority of the maintenance, education, and enforcement at our larger recreational facilities,

The management of recreational facilities is a true partnership between volunteers and DNR staff. We all bring something to the table to keep recreational facilities and trails open to the public. However, by law, there are things that volunteers simply can’t do.

So, how does this partnership work?

What volunteers can do:

Volunteers are valuable to DNR in so many ways, especially with non-routine/short-duration projects and activities such as:

· Helping to build and maintain trails under the direction of DNR professional staff.

· Participating in forest watch programs to provide education and outreach to the public and report suspicious activities to law enforcement.

· Acting as campground hosts.

· Performing light maintenance and repairs in campgrounds under the direction and guidance of professional staff.

· Serving on recreation planning committees.

What volunteers cannot legally do:

· Make contractual agreements.

· Apply for permits.

· Take enforcement action.

· Make decisions about safety and liability.

· Make decisions that are in the best interest of the state trust lands.

· Determine priorities for work projects based on safety, liability, and available resources.

The following is a shortlist of the kinds of work our professional staff do. (I can provide you with more details if you wish.):

· Apply for and manage grants.

· Manage grants.

· Coordinate and manage volunteers.

· Provide education and enforcement.

· Project management.

· Oversee facility and trail maintenance.

· Protect resources and assets.

· Consult with DNR forest managers on recreation issues.

With less than two weeks before the end of session, the Legislature has much work to do. I will continue to keep you updated on how things progress. Whatever the direction the budget takes, we will still be looking at less funding for the Recreation Program.

I am an optimist, and I know that we will find a way to keep afloat through these tough economic times.

Mark R. Mauren

Assistant Division Manager

Recreation, Public Access and WCC Programs

Asset Management and Recreation Division

Washington State Department of Natural Resources

360-902-1047

mark.mauren@dnr.wa.gov

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Interested in reading back issues of DNR Recreation News? You can now download back issues from DNR’s Recreation Newsletter web page.

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SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION. Thank you for your interest in the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Recreation Program. You are receiving this update because you or a colleague or friend requested to have your e-mail added to the DNR Recreation E News subscribers’ list. If at any time you wish to unsubscribe, simply send an e-mail to recreationenews@dnr.wa.gov and put “UNSUBSCRIBE” in the subject line. Please note that it may take a few issues before you are permanently removed from the list.

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