DNR fee legislation revised
Restoring a $278,000 cut to DNR's recreation budget has been WTA's top priority in Olympia this session. This year's proposed cut comes on the heels of a 60% cut last year and leaves just $140,000 to manage all recreation sites around the state next year. The agency says that as a result they would have to close places such as Mount Si, Little Si, Rattlesnake Mountain and Lake Spokane. These are among the most beautiful and accessible recreation sites statewide and attract more than half-a-million users annually.
A few days ago the landscape was dramatically altered. HB 2480, a bill written to change existing law so that DNR could charge fees at high-use sites and which set up a year-long public process to determine how best to implement such a fee system, was rewritten to set up an immediate user fee system for DNR without a public process.
Members of the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees were not comfortable with the financial impacts of HB 2480, primarily because it would cost more than $500,000 for DNR to go through with the public, multi-agency process.
Here's what the bill now authorizes:
- A $5 one-time parking pass;
- A $10 camping per night camping fee;
- A $20 annual access pass for parking and camping; and
- A flat $200 administration fee for events.
The legislation would also recognize volunteers by awarding an annual pass for 50 hours of volunteer work on DNR lands.
We have a couple of concerns with this proposal. The first is that it no longer represents the will of the Sustainable Recreation Working Group, which recommended that the user fee system be built as a result of a multi-agency public process. We feel hikers should be comfortable with this system. While it is substantially the same as the Northwest Forest Pass, it is still a new fee system on public lands, and it has to be acceptable to the users of those lands.
And second, the 50-hour requirement for an annual pass is excessive. The agency should require 16 hours, like the Forest Service does.
The fact is that DNR lands like Mount Si, Rattlesnake Mountain and Lake Spokane are important to hikers and other trail users. They're an important part of our quality of life and the economic well-being of our communities. The legislature needs to find a long-term solution to keeping these sites open. A user fee system, established with public support and transparent to the public, could be one part of the solution. But it doesn't solve everything. That's why it's important that the legislature also restore the $278,000 cut to DNR's recreation program this year.
What You Can Do
Please take a moment and call the Legislative Hotline: 1.800.562.6000. Ask your Representatives and Senator to:
Continue to work hard to restore the $278,000 cut from DNR's recreation program; and
Support passage of HB 2480, with a 16-hour volunteer requirement.
Thank you for all your help, and we'll keep you updated as this legislation moves forward.