The state senate and house capital budgets included several local park and nature area projects, most prominently the Black River Ranch just south of Little Rock. Both budgets include just over $1,090,000 for the purchase of the old cattle ranch to protect habitat.
Thurston County is one of the most rapidly developing counties in Washington and is losing an average of more than 1,000 acres of farmland a year to other uses. With the population expected to increase by another 150,000 people over the next 15 years, there is a great urgency to protect working farms in the county before they are lost forever.
This project seeks to conserve the Black River Ranch, a 725-acre dairy farm located in the middle reach of the Black River. It is one of the largest dairy farms in the county and contains a diverse complex of wetlands, floodplain, riparian and upland habitat, as well as extensive productive agricultural lands.
Instead of shutting the existing working ranch down, the project will integrate ag practices with habitat restoration and protection:
The protection of the Black River Ranch will combine farmland protection funding and conservation funding to conserve the agricultural and conservation values of the property. It is a unique opportunity that has the potential to not only preserve one of the largest farms in Thurston County, but can also serve as a demonstration site for how conservation and agriculture values can work cooperatively. Partnerships The project is an innovative partnership project between conservation land trusts, agricultural land trusts, local government, tribal government, private landowners, and state and federal agencies.
Other projects included are Olympia's Ward Lake park acquisition ($750,000 in both house and senate, but listed as "alternate" in house), Percivel Landing refurbishment ($500,000 and "alternate" in house, $567,000 in senate), and buying the Tilley Rd. Wetland (assume this is it).
These kinds of projects are already drawning fire:
Here’s what Rep. Judy Warnick has to say about the capital budget, released earlier today:
“While I appreciate being a part of the capital budget discussions, I disagree with some of the funding decisions. Several projects spend dollars to purchase and protect lands. Though I am a huge advocate of protecting our natural resources, this is not the year to be buying land. We are looking at closing state parks, but at the same time in this budget we are buying more land for parks and wildlife.
“As I gave input on the budget, my priority was projects that create jobs, expand higher education or are crucial for infrastructure. In order to get our economy moving again, we have to focus on projects that will create jobs and make our state more attractive to future employers.
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