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Conference will explore link between economy, conservation and recreation

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There is a growing recognition in our region of the linkage between economic development and conservation, which represents a shift in thinking from years past when it was assumed by many that the two values were mutually exclusive.

On Wednesday, there will be a robust discussion of the interconnection between recreation, tourism and a strong environment in Chelan at a joint meeting of two little-known organizations that carry a lot of clout — the Economic Development District and the Resource Conservation and Development Council. The two organizations work closely on issues, with the EDD focusing on economic development and the RC&D concerning itself with conservation efforts as it relates to the economy.

Jennifer Korfiatis, the EDD's executive director, stopped by the office recently to chat about the conference. A key catalyst for the meeting was the recent poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies that tested the attitude toward conservation in the 8th District, which now extends from Chelan and Kittitas counties to parts of King and Pierce counties. They'll be discussing the results of the poll at the meeting.

That research revealed remarkably consistent attitudes toward conservation on both sides of the Cascades. That may have been a surprise to folks who have traditionally assumed that attitudes on both sides of the Cascade Curtain are significantly different. It turns out that they appreciate and value the outdoors and the economic benefits that brings as much as we do here in North Central Washington.

There is a significant amount of interest in more fully exploring how our region can take advantage and play to the strength of that tie between economic development and conservation, according to Korfiatis. At the conference, there will be a panel discussing conservation and recreation efforts in the region and a second panel devoted to how conservation and recreation projects align with economic development efforts.

The ultimate goal is to figure out what opportunities exist as well as the obstacles to furthering the region's health and vitality. It seems to me that this is a vital discussion for our region and I'm delighted that the EDD and RC&D are moving forward with this discussion. We cannot talk about economic development in isolation from conservation, recreation and tourism. In fact, we need to think about how these things impact the entire community rather than considering them as independent silos.

And, as Korfiatis put it to me, we have been very good at thinking in terms of silos in this region. Now would be a good time to break down that isolationist thinking and work toward a more integrated approach to ensuring the region's vitality for the long term. The conference on Wednesday will be a good place to start.

If you'd like to see my video interview with Korfiatis, please log onto wenatcheeworld.com and click on videos.