Huge Public Lands Package Benefits Washington State

- Blog

After years of grassroots advocacy by hunters, hikers, and nature-lovers, combined with support from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, comes the largest bipartisan package of public lands bills in over a decade.

Hiking Mt Si
Recreators love hiking Mt. Si, now within the Mountains to Sound Greenway NHA. Photo by Brewbooks, Flickr.


On March 12, 2019, the John D. Dingle Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act was signed into law. This act is an impressive collection of bills that designates more than 1,340,000 acres of new wilderness, 367 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers, and 2,600 of new National Trails across the country.

“Public lands and access to lands are a juggernaut part of our economy,” said Washington Senator Maria Cantwell in a news release. “This legislation gives the tools and resources to local communities to manage this, to give more access to the American people, to do the things that will help us grow jobs and help us recreate for the future and preserve against a very challenging and threatening climate.”

The land trust community in Washington is thrilled with this latest legislation out of D.C, which means big things for Washington State.


Victory for LWCF

At the center of this natural resource management package was the legislation to permanently reauthorize the beloved parks and wildlands conservation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is incredibly important to our communities – as it protects working forests, public lands, and invests in trails and local parks across Washington and the country.

Since its creation by Scoop Jackson in 1964, the LWCF has supported more than 600 projects in Washington. Including iconic sites like:

  • Mount Rainier National Park
  • Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve
  • Riverside State Park of Spokane
  • Working forests at the foot of Mount St Helens

What’s more, the LWCF has injected $675 million into Washington’s economy by protecting and supporting our beautiful landscapes and local treasures.

On behalf of the land trust community, the Washington Association of Land Trusts is thrilled that the LWCF has been permanently reauthorized, which means that land trusts and partners will be able to keep protecting critical habitat, building ball fields, improving trails, and preserving Washington’s cultural history.

Read more about the permanent reauthorization of LWCF



The PNW’s first NHA – the Mountains to Sound Greenway
Area included in the Mountains to Sound Greenway NHA

The public lands package also included an Act in which Congress designated the Mountains to Sound Greenway — the 28 cities and 1.5 million acres sandwiching I-90 between Seattle and Ellensburg — as a National Heritage Area.

National Heritage Areas (NHAs) are places designated by Congress where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes.

This NHA designation is a non-regulatory approach to conservation. It does not affect private property, water, hunting, fishing or Tribal treaty rights. Meanwhile, it does unify stakeholders across the region with a shared vision for the Greenway. This shared vision can be used to encourage future protection and ecological restoration across watersheds. It may also grow funding opportunities through private and public partnerships.

The next step is the creation of a cooperative management plan for the region. This will lay out a broad vision, developed cooperatively between government and local stakeholders, to recognize what natural historic and cultural resources to preserve and protect. The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, a local NGO, is at the helm as the named coordinating entity of this plan.

As the Pacific Northwest’s first NHA, it’s the Greenway’s chance to serve as a national model for collaborative conservation!

Read more about the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area



Celebrating Washington’s Maritime Heritage
Area included in the Maritime NHA

The public lands package also created the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area, the first of its kind to focus entirely on maritime issues. This extraordinary designation was created to celebrate the maritime history and culture of Puget Sound and Coastal Washington.

The new area encompasses about 3,000 miles of saltwater shoreline in Western Washington, from Grays Harbor County to the Canadian border, and into Puget Sound. Lighthouses, historic vessels, parks and landmarks located within one-quarter mile of the shoreline in 13 counties are part of the new heritage area.

Congressman Derek Kilmer said of the Maritime NHA: “This is a winner in terms of trying to preserve our maritime heritage and celebrate it.”

This designation also comes with other opportunities to apply for other resources – federal, philanthropy, and private – to preserve the ecological, cultural, and economic resilience of this shoreline. Says Kilmer, “the opportunity to leverage the designation for resources is a big part of it.”

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation is named as the local coordinating entity for the program. Just as is the case for the Mountains to Sound Greenway NHA, the next step to launch the program is to coordinate local stakeholders and draft a cooperative management plan. This plan provides a way honor the past, and develop a shared vision for the future.

Read more about the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area