Washington state’s Recreation and Conservation Office has grants available to conserve working farms and forests, and to build facilities for large boats.

“As Washington’s population continues to grow, the pressure increases to turn working forests and working farms into subdivisions and strip malls,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the office. “The working farms and forests grants provide landowners a way to receive income for development rights and conservation practices while keeping their farms and forests profitable and productive.”

Landowners can receive cash for voluntary land retention agreements, also called conservation easements, under the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. Such agreements prevent future development on farms, ranches, and working forests.

The effort is a response to the loss of more than 2.6 million acres of farmland in Washington since 1950 — a 15 percent drop — as well as the loss of about 700,000 acres of forestland in the state since 1978.

About 160,000 people are employed by the state’s $10.6 billion agriculture industry and Washington is the second largest lumber producer in the nation. The state is home to more than 1,700 businesses related to forest products, supporting 101,000 workers and gross business income of about $28 billion a year, according to the Recreation and Conservation Office.

“Losing these lands threatens our economy and areas important for fish, wildlife, and clean water,” Cottingham said. “If we can keep these working lands working, we continue Washington’s vibrant natural resource-based economies and help retain our amazing quality of life.”

To apply, landowners must partner with a city, county, or nonprofit nature conservancy or the State Conservation Commission.

Eligible farmland must meet the definition of “Farm and Agricultural Land” or “Farm and Agricultural Conservation Land” in the Open Space Tax Act. Eligible forestland must be devoted primarily to timber production. It also must be enrolled in a county’s open space or forestland property tax program and remain in the county program for the duration of the conservation easement. Eligible products include land purchased for industrial, private, community, tribal or publicly-owned forests.

The maximum grant for forestland preservation is $350,000; there is no cap for farmland preservation grants. Pre-applications are due May 1 and final applications are due June 4.

The office also is accepting applications in the Boating Infrastructure Grants program, which provides money to develop, renovate and maintain boating facilities for recreational vessels 26 feet or longer. The grants also may be used to provide boater education.

Eligible applicants for the boating grants include cities, towns, counties, Native American tribes, port districts and some other special purpose districts, nonprofits, private operators, and state agencies.

Grants may be awarded anywhere from $5,000 to $1.4 million, depending on the type of grant. Pre-applications for boating grants are due May 1, with final applications due July 1.

The Recreation and Conservation Office will host a 45-minute webinar at 10 a.m. on March 7 to help individuals or organizations prepare for and submit grant applications.




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