2021 Policy Priorities
The Washington Association of Land Trusts connects and leverages the work of its 32 members organizations to advance policies and programs that protect and restore the lands that sustain us.
Land trusts partner with communities across the state to conserve land for future generations – but success hinges on robust public funding and effective policy tools. In the face of increased development, population growth, and a changing climate, it is now more important than ever to support policies and programs that will ensure our farms, forests and shorelines continue to contribute to Washington’s economy, culture and landscape.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
1) Community Forest Program
Community Forests allow people living in rural areas to have a direct stake in the ownership, use, and long-term management of important forestlands, while protecting their working status in perpetuity. In centering the needs of local stakeholders, community forests act as a strong catalyst for rural economic development in the woods at a time when that investment is needed more than ever. We urge the legislature to provide the full $22M requested by the Recreation and Conservation Office for their new Community Forest Program during the 2021 legislative session.
- Talking Points & Outreach Templates
- RCO Community Forest Project List
- Community Forests Fact Sheet
- Community Forest Sign-On Letter
- Community Forest Economic Analysis (Mt Adams Resource Stewards)
- Community Forests FAQ
2) ESRP and Shore Friendly Expansion
Shore Friendly is a vital outreach and incentive program working to promote natural shoreline ecosystems, a key limiting factor in salmon recovery. This is the second biennium that the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program (ESRP) has requested capital funds to help broaden the Shore Friendly program across Puget Sound. Now is the time for the legislature to take responsibility for making this expansion a reality while maintaining a commitment to the critical design, restoration, and acquisition projects within ESRP’s $20M investment plan. This funding directly supports both public and private-sector employment, while advancing a targeted, process-based approach to ecosystem enhancement for the region.
3) Forest Health and Wildfire Funding
This past fall served as a shocking reminder of the tremendous social, health, economic, and environmental costs of devastating wildfires here in Washington and across the west. We can’t afford to continue ignoring the threats and underlying conditions that make these natural disasters possible. Whether through the current capital budget or dedicated funding mechanisms, the Department of Natural Resources needs adequate resources to help prevent and mitigate future wildfire events through proactive forest health management, community preparedness, wildfire response capacity, and conversion prevention.
4) Farm and Food System Resiliency
In response to recommendations of Washington’s Food Policy Forum, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has requested $24M for farm and food system resiliency. In addition to supporting food system infrastructure and child nutrition programs, the proposal would support farmland preservation strategies and access for new and beginning farmers. In the face of challenges posed by COVID-19, this budget package meets the urgent need to advance a new suite of tools for conservation practitioners to effectively support a productive agricultural land base.
5) Natural Resource Funding Integrity
Now is not the time to undermine the integrity of our natural resource agency budgets, especially given the growing demand for outdoor spaces resulting from this unprecedented pandemic. WALT supports operating and capital funding for our natural resources agencies so they can uphold their increasingly vital obligations to the public.
Bill we endorse
1) Tax Exemption for Salmon Grants – SB 5220
This legislation would: 1) provide an exemption from Sales Tax by non-profits for the receipt of qualifying salmon recovery grants that are already deductible from the state Business & Operating (B&O) tax; 2) include federally recognized Indian tribes as being exempted; and 3) further clarify the scope of grants that are eligible for exemption and the taxable status of grant funds used to purchase tangible personal property or specified services.
2) Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) – SB 5159
Currently, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is responsible for administering payment of their PILT obligation to eligible counties. SB 5159 would move the funding to the State Treasurer to make these payments, mirroring the system used by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This would improve efficiency and buffer PILT funding from the budget process
3) Wildfire Prevention and Funding – HB 1168
This legislation creates a new funding account to support these three priorities; (1) wildfire response; (2) forest restoration; (3) community resilient. This bill is important because it might become the funding mechanism for funding wildfire response, resilience and restoration in the 2021 legislative session.
4) Landscape Conservation and Local Infrastructure Program (LCLIP) – HB 1243
This legislation improves and expands LCLIP, which combines the transfer of development (TDR) with a form of tax increment financing to create financial incentives for cities to expand growth while preserving valuable open space in Puget Sound.
5) WDFW Indemnification – SB 5146
Allows WDFW to indemnify the federal government as part of receiving hundreds of millions for Puget Sound and salmon restoration with the Army Corps of Engineers. They do not currently have this authority.
6) Streamline Environmental Permitting – HB 1382
Creates a pilot program that would exempt eligible salmon restoration projects from an EIS and local/state permits. This would cover many funding programs that land trusts and their partners use regularly (ESRP, Floodplains, PSAR, SRFB, etc.).