Local farms eligible for conservation grants

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Local organizations can now apply for state-funded conservation grants, according to the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office.

Applications for Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grants are accepted every two years; in early 2014, organizations may apply for the next round of grants.

The money can be used for a broad range of projects, including park acquisition and development, habitat conservation, farmland preservation and construction of outdoor recreation facilities.

Nonprofits such as land trusts, local and state agencies, local governments and Native American tribes may apply.

According to the Recreation and Conservation Office, $55 million is expected to be made available over the next biennium.

In the last grant cycle, 16 farmers received money that helped protect more than 6,500 acres of working land.

“The Washington Wildlife and Recreation grant program is great news for farmers,” Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said in a news release. “Agriculture is an important industry in our state. I’m pleased to see these grants helping farming families hold on to their properties and pass them on to future generations.”

According to the Recreation and Conservation Office, the Recreation Program was envisioned as a way for the state to accomplish two goals: Acquire recreation and habitat lands and develop recreation areas.

Since its inception in 1990, the Recreation Program has funded more than 1,100 projects statewide.

Past projects have included: Protecting wildlife habitat; building regional athletic complexes; renovating community parks; developing regional trails; building waterfront parks; restoring state lands; and protecting farmland.

Applications are accepted in even years, and the grant evaluation process takes about one year.

According to the Recreation and Conservation Office,The Washington Wildlife and Recreation grant program is the only source of state funding for farmland preservation.

Funding comes from the sale of general obligation bonds. More information is available at www.rco.wa.gov/grants/

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