WACD wishes to thank legislative budget writers for supporting conservation districts, the State Conservation Commission, and the concept of voluntary conservation efforts in developing the FY23 Supplemental Operating and Capital Budgets this session. As they approach this final step of reconciliation, the Washington Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) shares our priorities for their consideration as they work out budget differences.
We applaud both chambers’ efforts towards addressing sustainable natural resources, recovering salmon, and protecting farmland. Through crucial investments to increase riparian habitat on an incentive-based approach, conservation districts can build more partnerships with landowners and provide the expertise needed to design farm-friendly projects that deliver healthy water, air, and land for all. To deliver the best results, WACD views the following components as critical to addressing our state’s natural resource concerns:
- $15 million for Riparian Restoration Projects (Senate version) with the language from the House’s proposed Riparian Habitat Incentives to allow for expanding riparian restoration options to include a true commodity buffer program, an adapted commodity buffer program, and a small landowner program.
- $2.7 million for District Project Engineering Services (Senate version) so conservation districts have the project engineering services necessary to enable permit and design work for conservation projects.
- $6 million (House version) for the Voluntary Stewardship Program to increase the success rate of identifying and protecting critical areas without sacrificing local agriculture.
WACD also hopes to see additional funding for conservation districts and the State Conservation Commission in the Sustainable Farms and Fields Grant Program ($2 million), the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program ($4 million), and in the form of financial assistance for project monitoring ($2 million) to track the effectiveness and provide accountability of these on-the-ground projects.
With these investments, conservation districts may finally be able to reduce the backlog of requests for district services and expand our programs to more closely match the need to conserve our state’s natural resources.