Lands commissioner to ask Legislature for $100 million

The Associated Press
News Tribune

11/10/02

Olympia, WA - Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland is pushing ahead with his plan to create the Legacy Trust for Recreation and Conservation.

Strapped by a tight budget, the Department of Natural Resources needs the fund to maintain about 1,100 miles of hiking trails and more than 400 campgrounds and picnic areas.

Sutherland is preparing to ask state lawmakers for $100 million to acquire more land and dedicate the profits from logging or leases to maintenance.

The public will get a chance to comment on the proposal during three meetings, beginning next week in Bellevue. Other meetings are set for Seattle and Spokane.

The Department of Natural Resources manages 5.6 million acres of state trust land. By law, the department must send any proceeds to funds for schools and counties.

State forests also are a recreation destination. They get 7.2 million visits per year. The budget for maintaining state trust lands is about $2.5 million this year.

Because the department depends on the Legislature for funding, its only response when money runs short is to cut service or close recreation areas.

So now the department wants its own trust lands as a source of income.

In addition to buying trust land with state money, the department could accept gifts of land or money from philanthropists or foundations.

Sutherland would like to acquire between $300 million and $400 million worth of land over the next 10 to 15 years. He said he expects at least 60 percent of newly acquired trust land to be forested, with the rest in agriculture or commercial use.

The former Tacoma mayor and Pierce County executive said the new state trust lands would pay local property taxes, which is not the case with other state trust lands.

Becky Kelley, policy analyst for the Washington Environmental Council, called Sutherland's plan an interesting idea, but said questions remain over how intensively the land would be logged and how land purchases would be funded.

Sutherland first announced his land trust plan in May at the annual meeting of the Cascade Land Conservancy, a private group that raises money to buy and preserve forest land.

During his campaign in 2000, Sutherland promised he'd work to keep public lands open to the public.

He has less money to put toward that goal at a time when visitors' use of public lands is on the rise.

The Legislature has cut his department's recreation budget nearly in half, to $3.6 million, since 1990. Meanwhile, the number of visitors has doubled.

Editors note

For more information on times and places for public meetings and input, contact your local legislators or the Department of Natural Resources.

State Presses Land Trust

The Associated Press

November 10, 2002

Olympia---Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland is pushing ahead with his plan to create The Legacy Trust for Recreation and Conservation.

Strapped by a tight budget, the Department of Natural Resources needs the fund to maintain about 1,100 miles of hiking trails and more than 400 campgrounds and picnic areas.

Southerland is preparing to ask state lawmakers for $100 million to acquire more land and dedicate the profits from logging or leases to maintenance.

The public will get a chance to comment on the proposal during three meetings, beginning next week in Bellevue.

On the Net Department of Natural Resources: www.wa.gov/dnr

 

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