July 20, 2009
King County Council moves forward with important open-space preservation action
Public has final say on permanently protecting more than 150,000 acres
Future generations of King County residents would benefit greatly if more than 156,000 acres of ecologically valuable land receive enhanced protections, as proposed today by the Metropolitan King County Council.
The County Council’s unanimous approval today of a proposed amendment to the county charter means King County voters will have the final say on increasing protections to publicly owned land across the county The proposed open space charter amendment will appear on the ballot this November.
“This has truly been a team effort that has involved numerous private and public groups, along with dedicated individuals whose vision of a future King County includes ample public lands that can be enjoyed by all for generations to come,” said County Executive Kurt Triplett.
The proposed amendment to the county charter strengthens protections against the sale or transfer of protected properties by the county, and it permanently preserves the conservation-oriented uses of the lands. There would be no change in how residents currently use these lands and future land use decisions on the properties must have a 28-day public process.
This action by the council completed a long list of environmental preservation initiatives started by former King County Executive Ron Sims, now with the Obama administration as deputy director of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C.
“Former Executive Sims modeled this effort on the voter-approved agricultural land preservation process,” said Triplett. “He wanted to ensure that we could acquire and protect the beautiful trees, natural landscape, and peaceful surroundings in this region for public benefit for generations to come.
Specific properties protected by the amendment, which are spread throughout King County, were chosen for their high value in safeguarding the county’s many natural resources, habitat, recreation opportunities, and rural economy.
“Conserving land is important for the quality of life we all enjoy here,” said Cascade Land Conservancy President Gene Duvernoy. “Yet it was apparent to me several years ago that there were future threats to the hard work of conserving more than 100,000 acres.
“These additional protections are important to the ultimate goals of the Cascade Agenda because it includes small parks that are important to neighborhoods as well as large working forests such as the Snoqualmie Tree Farm. The Executive and the County Council needs to be commended for its leadership on this important issue,” Duvernoy said.
Triplett said the King County Charter Review Commission’s near-unanimous support of the proposed open space charter amendment was a milestone in moving this unique proposal forward. Former Washington State Governor Mike Lowry chaired the Commission.
“Terry Lavender and John Jensen – two citizens who dedicated many hours of their time as co-chairs of a subcommittee to move this proposal through the charter review commission – deserve our thanks for their tireless efforts,” Triplett said.
The proposal for an open space charter amendment stretches back roughly half a decade, near the conclusion of King County’s acquisition of an easement on the sprawling 90,000-acre Snoqualmie Tree Farm.
County and conservation leaders wanted to ensure permanent protection for these lands as open space – land that could be enjoyed through a variety of uses and activities.
Triplett also thanked the County Council for their solid support, including Council members Dow Constantine, Reagan Dunn and Larry Phillips, who were responsible for the draft legislation.
“Councilmember Bob Ferguson’s support for this effort also deserves special notice,” Triplett said. “I offer a special thanks to Cascade Land Conservancy, and Mountains To Sound Greenway, because they were instrumental in helping to shape the proposed charter amendment.”
Cascade Land Conservancy is hosting a thank-you reception today at 5 p.m. at its offices in the Broderick Building Second Avenue and Cherry Street in downtown Seattle.
King County provides regional services to 1.8 million residents including 340,000 people living in unincorporated areas. Services include Metro transit, public health, wastewater treatment, courts, jails, prosecutors, public defenders, community and social services, the King County International Airport, and local services such as police protection, roads services and garbage collection. King County is the 14th largest county in the nation, covering 2,134 square miles, 39 cities, 760 lakes and reservoirs, and six major river systems with 3,000 miles of streams.
Open Space Amendment
Natural Lands and Working Resource Lands
King County Water and Land Resources