Olympia - In Washington State hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and hiking account for $4.5 billion in economic activity and create over 60,000 jobs each year. A great deal of this economic activity is tied directly to our state's recreational lands, including state parks, hunting grounds and public fishing areas to name just a few.
But when state government was faced with a $5 billion shortfall, significant closures to public lands were being proposed. The need for recreational lands to become more self-sustainable was an unfortunate reality. It became clear during the legislation session that without a new, stable funding source, many of these lands would have faced widespread closure. Protecting our natural and recreational resources, and the thousands of jobs associated with them became a top priority for many, including Washington Senator Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan.
Senator Ranker introduced Senate Bill 5622, an effort to make state recreational lands self-sufficient. The bill created the Discover Pass, a universal parking permit for motor vehicle access to public lands.
The bill was signed into law Thursday, May 12. Projected revenue from the pass is expected to exceed $70 million – enough to keep the gates open.
Citing Ranker’s “leadership to keep our outstanding State Park system open for all our citizens in 2011,” the Washington State Parks Foundation declared him Legislator of the Year at celebration Wednesday evening.
Said Ranker, “Washingtonians across the state depend upon parks and other recreational lands not only for recreation and the protection of natural resources, but also for their livelihood,” Said Ranker. “Without this law, many public lands across the state would have been closed. When we shutdown these lands, we inadvertently harm the communities that depend upon them for economic activity.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the recognition from the State Parks Foundation. Because of the Foundation and many others who helped, this summer we can all continue to enjoy Washington’s public recreational areas… and I’ll still be able to go fishing at my favorite State Park.”
For more information, Michael Althauser, 360-701-0053