Republican Dan Evans and Democrat Mike Lowry combined political skills and bipartisan reach to promote wildlife preservation and outdoor recreation for future generations.
CERTAINLY there were whispers it would not last, but the durable political marriage of the state’s “odd couple” is celebrated in the 20th anniversary of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.
Founding co-chairs and former Govs. Dan Evans and Mike Lowry helped a packed hotel ballroom look back on two decades of success in preserving wildlife habitat, building local and state parks, protecting farmland and providing outdoor-recreation areas — from nature trails to soccer fields.
The Wednesday gathering honored the work of Elliot Marks, the first coalition director, and anticipated continued success with Joanna Grist.
More than 1,000 projects have been funded across Washington, and they reach into the smallest towns and communities. That is not just a good thing, but a purposeful intent of the program.
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Part of the success can be attributed to the division of labor. The coalition advocates for outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat, encourages and assists applicants with grant applications, and lobbies the Legislature for funds. A state agency reviews and ranks the applications. The coalition’s Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program distributes the money.
Republican Evans and Democrat Lowry are the practical and symbolic representation of the broad, bipartisan reach of this distinguish effort to preserve the best of Washington. Democrats and Republicans have crossed the aisle since 1989 to approve $620 million in state funds, which have attracted another $450 million in local and philanthropic funds, the coalition reports.
Still more money has come from federal sources.
The geographic reach of the project list is as diverse as the combination of votes in the Legislature to set aside money for park and farmland preservation, ballfields and community swimming pools.
Creation of the coalition and its survival through various false starts to find a funding base were linked to a recognition that a growing population and rapidly changing landscape required a coherent response.
Thank state lawmakers, local community leaders, state taxpayers, passionate advocates, cooperative property owners and the enduring vision of Evans and Lowry for a glorious record of achievement. Twenty years and counting.