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WA State Legislature Exceeds Expectations, Protects 2,200 Acres of Forest Land!

Posted on Mar 7, 2024 in Conservation News, WA Wild Blog
As Washington’s 2024 legislative session ends, Washington Wild and a coalition of state forest advocates are celebrating the protection of 2,200 acres of state forest land in nine different counties through the Trust Land Transfer (TLT) Program. By a unanimous, bi-partisan vote for the capital budget, the Legislature approved $10.8 million in funding for the nine projects.  

These nine TLT projects are not new, with many already underway and only requiring small amounts of funding to complete. Five of the projects will expand existing Natural Area boundaries contemplated ten or more years ago. Most of the projects will protect mature or old-growth forests that will continue to sequester significant amounts of carbon every year, contributing to our state’s carbon storage goals and climate resilience. Lastly, funding these projects largely clears the deck so new projects can be considered under a revitalized TLT program, thanks to HB1460 signed into law last year. 

Recognizing a unique opportunity following our successful advocacy for that revitalization bill last year, Washington Wild coordinated a comment letter signed by 110 elected officials, local businesses, and conservation, recreation, and wildlife organizations urging Washington State legislators to allocate $8 million in this year’s supplemental capital budget to fund six TLT projects. 

Following yesterday’s vote on the supplemental capital budget, we were pleasantly surprised by the results—with unanimous, bi-partisan support, the Legislature didn’t approve $8 million to fund six projects, but rather $10.8 million for nine projects! Next, the budget will go to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk, who we expect will grant his signature, as he included support for TLT projects as part of his budget recommendations at the start of session.  

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Photo: Lucas Cometto

Of note is that most of these projects include mature or old-growth forests, and as such, their funding has been allocated from the Climate Commitment Act. Because a ballot initiative to repeal this new and impactful funding source is expected to appear on the statewide ballot in November, these projects will not be implemented until January 2025, pending election results. 

Regardless of the caveat mentioned above, this is such an encouraging win—not only because thousands of acres will be protected through the TLT program for wildlife habitat and recreational access, but also because it signals growing and enthusiastic support for this valuable conservation tool. 

 

An excellent example of public policy, TLT works by transferring state trust land that is ecologically valuable but economically underperforming to entities that can manage it more effectively for conservation and recreation. This initiative contributes significantly to efforts by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to increase revenue for trust beneficiaries, including schools and local government services, as it provides DNR with the funds and opportunity to purchase replacement timberland that is economically profitable.