Short Legislative Session, Big Goals for the Outdoors
WTA is leading exciting requests to the state legislature during this year's short session.
January 10 kicked off this year’s state legislative session in Olympia. It’s a short session (running to March 10), but WTA has big goals.
WTA advocates for our public lands, trails and hikers throughout the year, but aligning our work with the state’s annual legislative session makes this an important time to advance statewide policy goals. As Washington’s legislature meets for 60-days this year to create new laws, change existing laws and enact supplemental budgets for the state, we'll be working with other advocates and legislators throughout Washington to talk about legislation that impacts public lands, outdoor recreation access and the state agencies who manage our recreation destinations.
Leading on trail maintenance and equity in outdoor careers
This year, we’re leading efforts to request legislative support for two exciting proposals:
- Reducing the sizable maintenance backlog for state parks and recreation lands
- Emphasizing equity in the outdoors through workforce pathways.
WTA is working with partner organizations and legislative champions to advance these requests.
While things are just kicking off now, we’re going to need the help of hikers like you to turn this work from requests to reality as the session progresses. As a constituent, speaking to your legislators about these requests can be critical in gaining the support we need. Join our Trail Action Network so you are ready to speak up when we call for you!
Emerging Leaders Program: Advancing Equity in the Outdoors
There are so many types of recreationists, skill sets and levels of expertise that contribute to an outdoor economy as large as we have in Washington. And yet, the professional sector behind our public lands doesn’t reflect the diversity of folks connected to the outdoors.
Washington Trail Association's Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) aims to address systemic challenges related to lack of diversity in the outdoor recreation sector by investing in BIPOC leaders. The Emerging Leaders Program is a paid program offering opportunities to grow leadership and professional skills in a safe, inclusive environment for folks from communities underrepresented in the natural resources and outdoor recreation fields. WTA launched the program in 2020, and we are now looking to expand the program to get more early-career leaders involved by partnering with Washington State Parks on an Emerging Leaders Program pilot effort.
Through our partnership with Washington State Parks, emerging leaders gain outdoor-oriented skills and experience while building connections with Washington State Parks and other partners to explore career opportunities within the outdoor recreation and natural resource management sectors. The program is designed as an entry point for early career BIPOC individuals to gain experience and build skills that unlock future employment opportunities. In doing so, the program also seeks to expand the number and diversity of trained, qualified individuals available for positions with outdoor nonprofits and land management agencies. With this request to the legislature, WTA is hoping to broaden our current development of the program to reach new heights and bring opportunity to more people.
Representative Ryu of the 32nd Legislative District is championing the proposal. We are very grateful for her leadership in advancing this exciting partnership between WTA and Washington State Parks as an important way to actualize the goals of our trails for everyone work.
Funding for the Maintenance Backlog
When you think about the improvements you want made on your favorite trail or recreation site, maybe a sturdier bridge or a less pothole-riddled drive to the trailhead, the odds are that you’re thinking of a project listed somewhere on a maintenance backlog.
The Department of Natural Resources, Washington State Parks and Department of Fish and Wildlife have experienced tremendous growth in visitor numbers to trails, parks and water access sites in the past decade. During the COVID-19 pandemic, estimated visits have increased in some places by more than 100 percent. But the maintenance backlog for these agencies outpaces the funding they currently receive for maintenance and operations. Agencies estimate a combined funding gap of $50m to $75m annually. Without support, the distance between maintenance needs and visitor use only grows.
This year, WTA is leading a budget request to take a first step in addressing the maintenance and operations shortfall by directing $5 million to each of the three agencies, totaling $15 million. We’re encouraging the three agencies to partner with organizations, such as nonprofits, to assist in the maintenance of public lands through this funding request.
Both of these proposals contribute to WTA’s mission of trails for everyone — by supporting all kinds of folks to get involved and invested in outdoor recreation and by supporting our public lands managers to keep our outdoors accessible.
Join us this session to protect our public lands, improve access to the outdoors, and build a recreation movement. Sign up for our Trail Action Network to stay involved with opportunities to help us enact our state legislative agenda this session!