Last week, congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, and United States Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell sent a letter to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) pressing the agency to include funding in the fiscal year 2022 budget for the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Community and Nature Center.
According to a news release, the USFWS fiscal year 2020 budget included funding for the project. However, in the following year, the funding was removed from its five-year plan, making the project’s future uncertain. In the letter to USFWS Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams, the Washington lawmakers expressed the concerns this move has created amongst the communities that benefit from the tourism of the refuge, and requested that USFWS restore the funding in the 2022 budget.
“The Refuge receives nearly 300,000 visitors each year, and engages 20,000 annual community members through programming on-site and in local neighborhoods,” Herrera Beutler, Murray, and Cantwell wrote in their letter. “The Refuge also factors into economic activity in the region; the tens of thousands of visitors provide a real benefit to the restaurants and other retail businesses in the Ridgefield area. Many small communities like Ridgefield have endured a prolonged economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding business restrictions to protect public health. The addition of a community center at the Refuge would provide an attraction for visitors to the Refuge and help provide a needed boost to businesses in the region.”