Law would create state public lands day

By Madeline Coats

WNPA Olympia News Bureau

OLYMPIA — Lawmakers seek to celebrate public lands in Washington state by designating the fourth Saturday of September as Public Lands Day.

House Bill 1449 is co-sponsored by a group of 18 Democratic legislators and introduced by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds.

“I bring this bill before you to really help Washington state showcase its public lands,” Peterson said at a public hearing last Tuesday.

The bill aims to recognize and celebrate the value of preserving and protecting public lands in Washington. The legislation will help show Washington citizens the importance of the environmental assets within the state, Peterson said.

National Public Lands Day began in 1994 and is held annually on the fourth Saturday in September.

According to the National Environmental Education Foundation, the holiday is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort.

Conservation outputs based on National Public Lands Day 2018 post-event surveys indicated that more than 100,000 volunteers at 1,176 sites in the nation participated in the holiday last year.

The data collected from 249 site managers predicts that the single-day of volunteerism resulted in 539,521 pounds of invasive plants removed and 137,948 acres of public lands restored, among other transformative environmental efforts.

As stated on the foundation’s website, the national holiday promotes the connection between people and the environment. Natural disasters, extreme weather, human activities and other factors take a toll on public lands, which threatens the health and well-being of people and wildlife.

The holiday serves as an occasion to restore these areas, the foundation said.

“The public lands in Washington state are not only widely used by our citizens, but are also a great economic driver throughout the state,” Peterson said.

Public lands directly help power the economy of the state, the bill says. Multibillion dollar outdoor recreation, working forests, aquatic lands and other resources that are being sustainably managed for public benefit are some of the reasons that give public lands additional economic importance.

HB 1449 has no fiscal note and the day would not be considered a legal holiday. The main goal of this legislation is to marry the celebration of national and state parks to protect public lands, Peterson said.

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This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.

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