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Victory in Olympia! Bringing the Outdoors Into the Governor's Office

Posted by Francakes at May 13, 2015 03:05 PM |

A new law signed by the Governor today creates the first-ever senior policy advisor on recreation in Washington. It also funds the No Child Left Inside program.

Hikers at Lobby Day in Olympia in 2013.

For the first time in Washington state history, the outdoor recreation industry will have a seat in the governor's office.

New law creates senior policy advisor on recreation

Today, Governor Inslee signed SB 5843 into law, which appoints a senior policy advisor to who will promote and increase opportunities for outdoor recreation in Washington state.

This would elevate outdoor recreation to the same level as healthcare, labor and transportation, which have similar positions in the governor's office. The governor has previously had an advisor on environmental issues, but never from the perspective of generating economic activity from our natural heritage.

Our public lands and waters are a proven economic powerhouse worth $21.6 billion a year. When the advisor is appointed, one of their first goals will be increasing jobs related to outdoor recreation in the short-term by 10 percent above the 190,000 jobs estimated to be connected to outdoor recreation as of this year.

Getting the next generation outside

This new law also funds the No Child Left Inside program, providing grants to Washington state outdoor education and recreation programs for youth. Community groups, nonprofits and schools will be eligible for the grants.

The program will begin in schools, prioritizing students who might not get a chance to explore Washington's landscape otherwise, including students who receive free and reduced lunch and those who are at risk of dropping out.

Getting kids from all walks of life outdoors will be critical for creating the next generation of stewards for our public lands. And it's proven to benefit the kids too. Studies show time outside increases kids' attention spans, reduces stress, and offers a fun way to exercise while being social.

Governor Inslee signs landmark recreation legislation on May 13, 2015 as WTA's Andrea Imler (blue jacket, third from right) and other recreation partners look on. Photo credit Legislative Support Services.

Bipartisan support

The bill was primarily sponsored by Senator Kevin Ranker (D-40) and Senator Linda Evans-Parlette (R-12) who were then joined by many of their colleagues in support.

In the words of Senator Ranker: "It's not about Republicans or Democrats. It's about a good idea."

No matter where Washingtonians identify on the political spectrum, we all benefit from our outdoors and our elected leaders recognize that.

Hikers helped bill in Olympia

Another essential ingredient to moving this bill forward was support from the outdoor recreation community. Hikers and other trail users gave SB 5843 momentum on Lobby Day in February by having more than 90 sign-ins in support of the bill at its hearing.

Without the support of the Trail Action Network, WTA wouldn't be nearly as effective in Olympia. So pat yourself on the back, hikers. Your enthusiasm helped make this happen.

A timeline has not yet been announced for when the advisor will be in the Governor's office, but we will keep you posted here. For more information on how you can advocate for trails, visit our Action page.