Washington to Streamline Natural Resources Program Delivery
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire has a plan that would transform how Washington's natural resources programs are delivered.
"With the budget reductions that we've had to make and will continue to make in response to revenue shortfalls, it's imperative for government to work smarter and more efficiently than ever," Gregoire said. "Our natural resource management reforms will make the most of our investments and provide maximum benefits to the public and protection for the environment."
Capping a six-month reform initiative by agency directors and policy and budget experts, state officials said they will seek legislation to:
- Reduce the number of growth management hearings boards from three to one, and reduce the number of environmental appeals boards from five to two, while maintaining citizens' rights to appeal decisions.
- Standardize appeal procedures and timelines for quasi-judicial environmental and land use laws, eliminating the confusion that exists for businesses and citizens wanting to challenge a government environmental or land use decision.
- Eliminate agency review processes that duplicate appeals to environmental hearings boards.
Gregoire also has a strategy to further integrate outdoor recreation and management of millions of acres of state resource lands. The newly established Natural Resources Cabinet will work with the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to enhance tourism and outdoor recreation throughout the state, with a focus on creating integrated outdoor recreation markets for wildlife viewing, hunting, fishing, and use of parks and recreational attractions – and promoting these opportunities nationally and internationally.
The governor charged with Natural Resources Cabinet with creating "One Front Door" for the 98 separate environmental permits, licenses and approvals under environmental protection statutes; and for easier public access to the 80 environmental grant and loan programs. The cabinet must establish a single set of regional boundaries for natural resources agencies with local field operations, eventually co-locating more agency offices and making it easier for the public to find the local services they need. It almost must coordinate scientific field monitoring and data protocols so a scientist doing field work for one agency can simultaneously collect data for another agency and expand the use of a single multi-agency permit team to cover all agencies' environmental permits for major projects in a geographic area.