Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition

  • By Peter Blecha
  • Posted 3/23/2011
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9724
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Founded in 1989, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition is an award-winning non-profit citizens coalition whose members represent a diverse group of more than 270 community organizations including those of conservationists and outdoors and wilderness enthusiasts as well as farmers, timber companies, realtors, and other business interests. Initially their central goal was to seek governmental support for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP). Two decades later, the Seattle-based coalition remains "dedicated to persuading the Legislature to fund parks, habitat, and working farms throughout the state" (wildliferecreation.org).

The Coalition

The Seattle-based Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition (1402 3rd Avenue) was founded in the summer of 1989 to actively lobby the governor and state legislators to vastly increase investments in new parks and in the conservation and preservation of wildlife, habitat, wetlands, grasslands, and farmlands all across the state. One measure of its effective approach is that in the decade prior to its founding, Washington State allotted an annual average of a mere $2 million toward land acquisition efforts. Today the yearly investment is more than $35 million.

One major reason that the coalition has achieved its impressive track record of accomplishments is the fact that it has provided a unique opportunity for major corporations like Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, Group Health, and Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) -- other organizations and agencies including the Washington Forest Protection Association, Washington State Grange, Washington Realtors, and Puget Sound Energy -- to join forces with nonprofits, including the Nature Conservancy and the Federation of Fly Fishers, in efforts to defend and protect wildlife, habitat and help increase opportunities for the public for outdoor recreation

Recreation Program

In 1989 the coalition persuaded the Washington State Legislature to vote (RCW 79A.15) in favor of establishing and funding the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP). The initial biennial (1989-1991) budget totaled $53 million and the 1991-1993 appropriation was increased to $60.3 million. In 1992 an additional $750,000 was added in.

The program was established to respond to requests submitted by concerned citizens, professional biologists, park personnel, and land managers. It is based on a competitive process that was designed in order to have the Olympia-based, Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (founded in 1964) review project proposals, rank them by merit, and -- after their final list is approved by the governor and legislature -- distribute grants to state and local agencies in order to actualize those winning plans. According to the organization's website, this endeavor has been remarkably successful in improving not only the natural environment, but also the quality and quantity of recreational opportunities for many local communities:

"Since the program's inception, the Coalition has advocated for state funding for WWRP grants, raising over $620 million for 1,016 neighborhood parks and ball fields, biking and walking trails, local beaches, boat launches, wildlife, habitat, state parks and working farms. Local and federal matching funds bring the total over $1 billion" (wildliferecreation.org).

The Coalition's actions successfully protected 350,000 acres of land. One notable example is the Crown Lakes project, which rescued 680 acres in the Cascades, including three alpine lakes, Lake Moolock, Lake Nadeau, and SMC Lake, that were threatened by development schemes, but which in 2003 were instead added (via $3 million in funding) to the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area.

Distinguished Directors and Board-Members

The Coalition has accomplished so many of its noble goals in large part because of the visionary leadership provided by an effective -- and bi-partisan -- Board of Directors. The organization's founding co-chairs were (former Republican governor and U.S. senator) Daniel J. Evans (b. 1925) and (former Democratic governor and U.S. congressman) Mike Lowry (1939-2017), and the founding president was Elliot Marks. 

Among the many, many distinguished individuals that have served (or are serving) as Coalition officers or Board members are:

  • Karen Anderson (Director, The Nature Conservancy of Washington)
  • Frank Chopp (Speaker, Washington State House of Representatives)
  • Dow Constantine (King County Executive)
  • Billy Frank Jr. (Chair, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission)
  • Peter Goldmark (Commissioner of Public Lands)
  • Jay Inslee (Representative, United States Congress)
  • Norm Johnson (State Representative)
  • Ron Judd (Board Member, Conservation Northwest)
  • Patricia Lantz (State Parks and Recreation Commissioner, former State Representative)
  • Mike McGinn (Mayor, City of Seattle)
  • Craig Pridemore (Washington State Senator)
  • George Rohrbacher (former State Senator, rancher and farmer)
  • Christine Rolfes (State Representative)

Awards and Acknowledgments

The good works that the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition has been involved with over the decades have been acknowledge with the bestowing of numerous prestigious awards. Among those are: 

  • the Washington State Association of Counties Park and Recreation Boards and Departments' Award of Merit (1990)
  • the Washington Recreation and Parks Association's Citation of Merit (1990)
  • the National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers Non-Profit Organization Award (1993)
  • the Chevron Times-Mirror Conservation Award (1994)
  • the Nature Conservancy's President's Conservation Achievement Award (2000)
  • the Mountains to Sound Greenway's Certificate of Merit (2002)
  • the Washington Recreation and Parks Association's Citation of Legislative Merit (2008).

In addition, the Coalition's founding co-chairs, Dan Evans and Mike Lowry, each received the Cascade Land Conservancy's Frank Pritchard Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. And by executive declaration in 2003, the date of September 25th was named Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition Day by then-King County Executive -- and current Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development -- Ron Sims (b. 1948).


Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition website accessed on February 3, 2011(http://wildliferecreation.org/aboutus/ourhistory); Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office website accessed on February 3, 2011 (http://www.rco.wa.gov/about/index.shtml); John de Yonge, Awards for Lowry and Evans,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 2, 1989, p. B-2; "Spectacular Alpine Lakes Join Mount Si Conservation Area," Mountains to Sound Greenway Vol. 11, No. 1 (February 2004) available online at (http://mtsgreenway.org/newsandpublications/newsletterarchive/nlfeb04web.pdf) .

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