WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress has restored funding through which Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest acquire recreational land.
As recently as Oct. 1, it appeared appropriations for the Land and Water Conservation Fund had expired.
On Friday, however, Congress approved a $450 million allocation, including $9.8 million for Washington state, which President Barack Obama quickly signed.
On the Olympic Peninsula, it will enable ONP to acquire land around Lake Quinault to curb sewage dumping and protect fisheries.
Other Northwest Washington appropriations include:
■ Pacific Crest Trail: Projects to protect safety and continue public access.
■ Mount St. Helens: Forest Legacy Program conservation easements to sustain working forests.
■ Ebey’s Landing: Preserving 165 acres of farmland homesteaded since the 1850s on Whidbey Island.
As for ONP’s buying land at Lake Quinault, park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said Saturday that details remained unclear.
“These thing tend to work their way down through the chain,” she said.
“It will be awhile before we get any concrete information.”
Maynes stressed there would be no federal “land grab” at the lake.
“We acquire land only from a willing seller and only when we can be a willing buyer.”
Restoring the Land and Water Conservation Fund for three years — with a one-year 47 percent boost — came as a surprise given its dismal outlook last fall, when it was allowed to lapse.
6th District Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor and a Port Angeles native, lobbied hard for the fund along with U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Whidbey Island, and Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace.
The fund had been introduced by U.S. Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, D-Everett, in 1964, and since then has funneled more than a half-billion dollars for recreational projects in Washington state.
Money for the program comes from revenue from offshore oil and gas leases, not from taxes.
Kilmer issued this statement after Obama signed the appropriation:
“As a dad, there is nothing better than getting my two little girls away from the screens and into the outdoors.
“That’s why when a key tool for investing in parks, recreational sites, and our valuable open spaces expired, I fought to fix it.”
Cantwell issued a statement saying, “This increase in real funding and three-year reauthorization will allow us to do important work in our state. I will continue to push for a permanent authorization.”
She added: “The LWCF supports more than $656 billion in economic activity and more than 6 million jobs nationwide.
“In the state of Washington alone, active outdoor recreation contributes more than $11.7 billion annually to the economy and it produces $8.5 billion annually in retail sales and services across the state.
“It is a successful program, good for both the environment and the economy.”
It wasn’t clear how a land purchase at Lake Quinault might affect a related issue.
The Quinault Nation continues to oppose efforts by a lakeside homeowners’ group challenging its ownership of Lake Quinault and its shores.
North Quinault Properties LLC asserts that the lake is a “public trust resource” owned by the state of Washington and that the tribe cannot control access to it.
Chief plaintiffs are Thomas and Beatrice Landreth of Hoquiam, who say they have been unable to repair their dock at their home on the lake.
In May, the suit against the state Department of Natural Resources and Peter Goldmark, commissioner of public lands, was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton in Tacoma.
The homeowners, however, refiled the suit in September, dropping the tribe as a defendant but retaining Goldmark and the DNR.
Reporter James Casey can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at [email protected]