Parks get infusion of green


Herald Writer

Open spaces in the Northwest got a boost Wednesday with more federal money to improve Snohomish County parks and preserve land on Whidbey Island, among a host of other environmental projects.

It’s part of a major conservation bill President Clinton signed into law that will double the federal spending next year for parks and lands.

The interior appropriations bill earmarks $12 billion over six years for purchasing fragile lands, maintaining parks, preserving wildlife and other initiatives.

"This is a truly historic achievement, achieved in a genuine bipartisan spirit," the president said.

He signed the bill in the Oval Office, surrounded by leaders of environmental organizations and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., who helped steer the bill through Congress and came up with the compromise language that finally passed.

U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., and chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, secured more than $60 million for Washington state projects, including $3.25 million to buy prairie lands and historic buildings on Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island.

But not everyone is pleased with the bill, especially not those who had been rooting for passage of the original Conservation and Reinvestment Act, or CARA.

That bill would have dramatically expanded the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which the late U.S. Sen. Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson, an Everett Democrat, helped create 35 years ago to mitigate the effects of offshore oil drilling.

The bill Clinton signed does include an increase in conservation funding, but not nearly to the extent CARA supporters had hoped for.

The bill budgets $1.6 billion next year for the federal government to buy land or maintain its parks, with that figure rising 10 percent each year to $2.4 billion by 2006. That’s about half what CARA would have provided.

The whole point of CARA was to make the funding a concrete act, said Arvilla Ohlde, director of the Edmonds Parks and Recreation Department. The new bill doesn’t do that, she said, and "in reality, it’s only a hollow promise."

But the entitlement provision was exactly why Gorton had strenuously opposed CARA, along with other Western Republicans.

Gorton supports the language of the new budget, however, in part because it includes an emphasis on maintaining parks, spokesman Todd Young said. There is currently a $20 billion maintenance backlog for existing federal parks and lands, he said, which weighed heavily on Gorton’s mind in considering buying more.

The altered funding mechanism was another he changed his mind. Gorton said he had been concerned about the CARA bill putting conservation funding on par with Social Security and Medicare, as something Congress is required to fund no matter what financial constraints the country may be facing at the time.

"Previous versions of this bill would have created an entitlement that would have handed a blank check to the administration to spend billions of dollars however they wished," Young said. "The interior bill that the president signed (Wednesday)… says that we believe in the goal of the previous bill, but we’re going to fund it through the normal process with Congress deciding each year how to spend the money rather than the administration unilaterally deciding."

The president said the measure "will provide better funding to take better care of our national parks and deal with a lot of pent-up maintenance needs. It will increase support for firefighters and preventing forest fires, something America has seen all too much of in the last few months."

Overall, the bill appropriates $16.9 billion for the Interior Department and other agencies. It will provide $225 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Clinton said it was the first funding increase for the NEA since 1995, when critics in Congress tried to kill it.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Twin sisters Lyndsay Lamb (left) and Leslie Davis (right), co-hosts of HGTV's Unsellable Houses. (Photo provided)
Meet and greet HGTV’s ‘Unsellable Houses’ twin sister stars in Snohomish on Friday

Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Davis have made Lamb & Co. a #twinwin home-selling, home-goods brand.

Funko mascots Freddy Funko roll past on a conveyor belt in the Pop! Factory of the company's new flagship store on Aug. 18, 2017.  (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Lawsuit: Funko misled investors about Arizona move

A shareholder claims Funko’s decision to relocate its distribution center from Everett to Arizona was “disastrous.”

Members of South County Fire practice onboarding and offboarding a hovering Huey helicopter during an interagency disaster response training exercise at Arlington Municipal Airport on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. The crews learned about and practiced safe entry and exit protocols with crew from Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue before begin given a chance to do a live training. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish, King counties train together for region’s next disaster

Dozens of agencies worked with aviators Tuesday to coordinate a response to a simulated earthquake or tsunami.

Police stand along Linden Street next to orange cones marking pullet casings in a crime scene of a police involved shooting on Friday, May 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lake Stevens man identified in Everett manhunt, deadly police shooting

Travis Hammons, 34, was killed by officers following a search for an armed wanted man in a north Everett neighborhood.

Ciscoe Morris, a longtime horticulturist and gardening expert, will speak at Sorticulture. (Photo provided by Sorticulture)
Get your Sorticulture on: Garden festival returns to downtown Everett

It’s a chance to shop, dance, get gardening tips, throw an axe and look through a big kaleidoscope. Admission is free.

1 stabbed at apartment in Lynnwood

The man, 26, was taken to an Everett hospital with “serious injuries.”

A firefighting helicopter carries a bucket of water from a nearby river to the Bolt Creek Fire on Saturday, Sep. 10, 2022, on U.S. Highway 2 near Index, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Red flag fire warning issued west of Cascades

There are “critical fire weather” conditions due to humidity and wind in the Cascades, according to the National Weather Service.

A house fire damaged two homes around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 6, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Fire burns 2 homes in Marysville, killing 2 dogs

Firefighters responded to a report of a fire north of Lakewood Crossing early Tuesday, finding two houses engulfed in flames.

Snohomish County vital statistics

Marriage licenses, dissolutions and deaths.

Most Read