Tom Salzer
Tom Salzer

On January 19, 2022, WACD Executive Director Tom Salzer testified on House Bill 1838, titled: Protecting, restoring, and maintaining habitat for salmon recovery.

WACD signed in as OTHER so that we could demonstrate support for the important goal of recovering salmon but also make the point that the mechanism proposed in the bill wasn’t the right approach. Objecting to excessive regulation was an obvious choice but taking that position could sour future prospects for voluntary conservation program support.

We chose to let our partners take the lead on expressing their concerns about the bill’s heavy-handed regulatory approach so that we could focus on the positive message that fully funding for voluntary conservation programs would yield great benefits.

One of WACD’s key concerns with HB 1838 is that voluntary conservation seems to be characterized as a failure. When you look at the history of funding requested for voluntary programs vs. what the State has actually funded, it is evident that the State has not given voluntary programs a chance to succeed in the way we know they can. The total cost for HB 1838 is many times what has been requested for voluntary conservation funding.

WACD’s 90-seconds of testimony was well received and is quoted below:

Good morning, Chair Chapman, Vice Chair Shewmake, and members of the Committee. My name is Tom Salzer with the Washington Association of Conservation Districts and I am here representing the interests of Washington’s 45 conservation districts.

WACD is testifying as OTHER on House Bill 1838 because we want to be clear that we support salmon recovery, but this bill undercuts voluntary conservation. Voluntary conservation programs do work when they are sufficiently funded, but the State has not provided enough funding.

For example, over the last three biennia the State Conservation Commission requested nearly $20 million for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. That program provides $3 in federal funds for each $1 in state funding, a 3-to-1 match. With less than one-half of the requested amount funded, our state lost out on about $30 million for habitat restoration.

We believe that if sufficient funding had been provided for voluntary conservation programs, today there would be no perceived need for this legislation.

Regulating the width of buffers threatens locally-led, voluntary conservation work, a principle at the heart of every conservation district. Historically, regulation has prevented federal programs from being available for conservation. When landowners lose access to effective tools, conservation progress suffers. We know that increasing funding for the Voluntary Stewardship Program, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, and other voluntary programs will yield the outcomes this legislation seeks to create without trying to force people to do the right thing.

Thank you.

You can view WACD’s testimony on TVW.