Governor proposes changes to state parks, recreation agencies

December 15, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 6 a.m. Dec. 15, 2010

Gov. Chris Gregoire has called for the agency responsible for Lake Sammamish and Squak Mountain state parks, plus the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, to be merged into a single agency in order to cut costs.

The governor unveiled a plan Tuesday to reduce the number of state agencies from 21 to nine. The consolidation could mean almost $30 million in savings and a reduction in state positions by 125 between next year and 2013. The state faces a $4.6 billion shortfall in the upcoming budget.

Gregoire intends to consolidate the state natural resource agencies to help address the revenue gap.

The plan calls for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Recreation and Conservation Office and the law enforcement unit of the Department of Natural Resources into a single Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Gregoire also proposed merging the State Conservation Commission into the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation into the Department of Natural Resources.

The proposals, plus other consolidations, could amount to $2.5 million in savings and eliminate 14 positions.

The governor has also proposed merging the state minority-affairs agencies into a single Office of Civil Rights and eliminating state boards and commissions.

“Out of necessity, our budget will be dominated by painful cuts as we balance a $4.6 billion shortfall,” Gregoire said in a statement. “To help offset that shortfall, we must put forward to the Legislature transformative ideas. I intend to do just that, and appreciate the thousands of suggestions submitted by Washingtonians, along with the work of our state’s Transforming Washington’s Budget committee — who spent months developing and proposing many of these strategies.”

The state is also considering a proposal to shut down Squak Mountain State Park near Issaquah in order to address the shortfall.

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One Response to “Governor proposes changes to state parks, recreation agencies”

  1. Sera Burns on December 15th, 2010 7:36 pm

    It will be a sad mistake to merge the independent voice of the Conservation Commission into the archaic, rusty agency known as the Department of Agriculture.

    The Conservation Commission has dramatically decreased turnaround time for customer requests, and has forged significant alliances to conserve natural resources.

    While regulation (Department of Ag) and cooperation/collaboration (Conservation Commission) may be two sides of the coin intended to achieve responsible use of resources, housing them together will definitely taint the effectiveness of the Conservation Commission.

    The worst outcome of this assimilation will be the loss of a deep, experienced, valued independent voice in Olympia and with conservation partners across the region. We have only to look south of the Columbia River to see how ineffective a state conservation commission becomes when it is “merged” with a state department of agriculture.

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