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Economic development opportunities on state lands focus of legislation

OLYMPIA - State lawmakers are considering a bill that would direct three state agencies to consider economic development opportunities when making decisions on how to most advantageously manage lands under their authority.

House Bill 1196, sponsored by Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, had its first public hearing this past Tuesday in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

"Whether a piece of public land managed by a state agency could in fact support some form of economic development should be considered to maximize potential revenues to the general fund," Taylor told the committee, noting the measure has earned bipartisan support.

Under his proposal, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Department of Natural Resources would be required to evaluate the economic development potential of lands under their jurisdiction to ensure maximum benefits to the agency, the state or the local community.

Testifying in favor of Taylor's bill was Jack Field of the Washington Cattlemen's Association. He said logging, mining and grazing could be among the possibilities the agencies might consider.

"It's important to note the legislation doesn't mandate any specific activity by the agencies, just simply that they weigh all the options," said Field.

"This is a simple bill with a straightforward goal...to generate revenue for the general fund. We have a wide variety of natural resource-based revenue streams, literally and figuratively, that could be tapped to help our state through its current budget issues," he said.

Taylor said, "As I stated this week during a Capital Budget Committee hearing, we are working to find creative ways to address our financial challenges."

He continued, "The governor emphasized in her State of the State address that we must look 'outside the box' and everything should be on the table. This measure is a simple step to help toward that goal."

House Bill 1196 remains under consideration by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

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