Dear Governor Inslee,
Thank you for your leadership during this unprecedented crisis for our region and the world.
We are writing today as a group of nonprofit organizations committed to conservation, recreation, and ecological stewardship of spectacular natural lands in Washington State. As the public health situation improves and you consider expanding the types of work allowed to resume, we encourage you to prioritize jobs that can be done outdoors, safely, and to prioritize work that protects our state’s treasured natural landscapes in the first phase of allowing more people to return to their jobs.
Please allow jobs outdoors, which can be done safely, in the first phase of returning additional people to work.
We are heartened to hear that you are working with state governments on the West Coast. Washington, Oregon and California share many common interests including businesses, trade, transportation and magnificent natural landscapes, and will need to work closely together to help our communities and our natural lands recover from the Coronavirus pandemic.
The signatories to this letter represent a diverse collection of conservation and recreation-focused nonprofits and organizations that sponsor AmeriCorps programs that provide jobs across Washington State and work closely with public land management agencies, businesses, conservation advocates, recreation access providers, historic preservation groups, and many more.
As you move from approving only essential work to including work that can be done with minimal risk, we believe that outdoor work could be done extremely safely, with easily implemented distancing protocols and consistent standards across agencies and organizations.
It seems clear that certain business sectors should return employees to work early rather than late, including building of much-needed public infrastructure and private construction projects. We ask that you please also consider the ecological health of our public lands, protected private lands, and infrastructure of recreation areas as high priorities.
Many nonprofits, as well as federal, state, and local government agencies, employ and sponsor staff and crew members (including those participating in AmeriCorps programs) to conduct habitat restoration and monitoring. Critical restoration projects are currently on hold, jeopardizing millions of dollars in funding and endangering the health of public lands as invasive weeds multiply, monitoring data is not collected, water quality and vital salmon habitat are not improved, and work to mitigate potential summer wildfires sits idle. Federal, state, local, and private investments in prior ecological restoration could be in jeopardy without ongoing monitoring and maintenance.
Nonprofits and government agencies also employ and sponsor staff and crews to build and maintain trails and recreation facilities. While many people are obeying stay-at-home orders and closures of recreation areas, we are learning about wild turkey slaughter on the LT Murray Wildlife Area, stolen toilets in the Teanaway Community Forest, and vandals cutting down fences, driving trucks into roadblocks, and breaking into bathrooms on state lands. We are conscious that the longer our staff remain indoors, the longer this damage goes without repairs, and the greater the backlog of work to make our public lands and recreation areas safe and sanitary for regular use.
Those of us In the nonprofit conservation and recreation communities work to support land managers and would welcome the chance to continue to do so soon. We would like to help land management agencies prepare for recreational use as you consider timing of public lands reopening. To do that, both government agencies and nonprofits need to put professionally-trained, outdoor crews back to work in advance of public recreation access. We pledge to work closely with land management agencies to develop and implement clear, established safety protocols as we help with this much-needed restoration and maintenance.
Thank you for your support of Washington’s outdoor recreation sector, formerly a $22 billion industry for our state. Employees and employers in this sector are experiencing a significant financial toll currently, one that will be challenging to recover from. With our Northwest ethos of caring for natural lands, we trust that together we can rebuild this industry, a pillar of our economy, and care for our magnificent public lands and natural areas, safely.
And, thank you for your support of conservation and recreation in Washington. As we emerge from the collective impact of COVID-19, we will need our open spaces, our city parks and wilderness, our regional trails to connect communities, and our healthy rivers and streams. Our mental health, our physical health, our economy, and our communities will depend on our public lands and our natural areas, perhaps more than ever.
We would appreciate the opportunity to be a part of a conversation about land management agency staff and field crews returning to work, safely. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 206.327.1732 for additional information or to set up a meeting.
Thank you for your consideration and your leadership during this challenging time.
Jon Hoekstra, Executive Director, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust
Steve Dubiel, Executive Director, EarthCorps
Yvonne Kraus, Executive Director, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance
Skip Swenson, Vice President, Policy and Programming, Forterra
Mendy A. Harlow, Executive Director, Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group
Shauna Hanisch-Kirkbride, Managing Director, Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group
Margaret Neuman, Executive Director, Mid-Columbia Fisheries
Jeanette Dorner, Executive Director, Mid Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group
Tom Vogl, Chief Executive Officer, The Mountaineers
Rachel Vasak, Executive Director, Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association
Rebecca Benjamin, Executive Director, North Olympic Salmon Coalition
Jay Satz, Senior Director of Partnerships and Innovation, Northwest Youth Corps
Marc Berejka, Director, Government and Community Affairs, REI Co-op
Rodney Pond, Executive Director, Sound Salmon Solutions
Jill Simmons, Chief Executive Officer, Washington Trails Association
Christine Mahler, Executive Director, Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition