King County Executive Dow Constantine will transmit an ordinance to the King County Council to protect thousands of acres of forests, farmlands and shorelines. The move is part of an effort to save King County’s most at-risk open space before development reshapes what makes this region great.
In 1982, King County Council enacted the Conservation Futures Tax that helped purchase and protect more than 100,000 acres of forests, shorelines, greenways and trails, including Seattle's Duwamish Head Greenbelt, development rights in the Snoqualmie Forest, and Puget Sound shoreline in Burien.
The Conservation Futures Tax is currently assessed at 3.8 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value. Since the Conservation Futures Tax was created, King County’s population has more than doubled.
King County Executive Dow Constantine proposes financial changes to enable King County to sell more bonds secured by the tax. This would bring in about $148 million over four years to save vital green space most in danger of development and help create open space in communities that have little in the way of trees and fields.
“I am committed to saving the last, best places in King County, and created the Land Conservation Initiative to identify and protect vital forest, farmlands and green space that are most at risk,” said Executive Constantine. “We are in a race against time to preserve these lands, and have set the ambitious goal of saving 65,000 acres in 30 years. I am proposing legislation to the King County Council that will enable us to ramp up the pace of open space preservation, while setting the stage to complete the job within a generation."
Here are examples of land in each of the six categories that could receive funding for protection:
- Natural lands: Weyerhaeuser Campus, Federal Way. This would protect lakeshore forests and trails used by the public for 50 years. (32820 Weyerhaeuser Way S, Federal Way)
- Urban green space: Tukwila parcel surrounded by lower-income apartments. Local kids had no place to play. This is a half-acre of grass and trees. (3501 S 146th St., Tukwila)
- Trails: Eastside Rail Corridor. This investment would help us acquire key parcels to complete a connected corridor through Renton, Bellevue, Kirkland, Woodinville and Redmond.
- Forestlands: Enumclaw Forested Foothills, to connect to the Tomanamus Forest. (located near Enumclaw Transfer Station at 1650 Battersby Ave E, Enumclaw).
- Farmlands: Krainick Dairy, Enumclaw. Some of where the Krainicks’ cows graze are at risk of development. We propose permanent conservation easements for 14,000 acres of farmland. (Contact the dairy to visit.)
- Rivers and shoreline: San Souci, Tolt River, near Carnation. The high priority Tolt River basin hosts threatened chinook and steelhead, along with chum, coho, and pink salmon and bull trout.
Executive Constantine’s proposed ordinance to the King County Council is part of his Land Conservation Initiative, which intends to preserve 65,000 acres of forests, farmlands, shorelines, and trails within 30 years, before the opportunity is lost to population growth and development.
Two years ago, in the face of a rapid regional growth, the Executive convened a wide range of experts to create a long-term strategy that would protect the most critical remaining habitats from development, and make neighborhoods more livable by connecting regional trails and creating more urban parks and green spaces.
The Land Conservation Initiative Advisory Group released its final report in January and affirmed an urgent need to finish the work within 30 years.
In this race against time, King County will also seek to increase private sector contributions and promote programs that provide property tax deductions to landowners who keep their property undeveloped or in agriculture or forestry.
The proposed ordinance would also remove the financial match requirements for acquiring new open space in communities where investments have been lacking, and which have missed out on the health, quality of life, economic and environmental benefits associated with nearby green spaces.
To carry forward his vision, Executive Constantine announced a new Open Space Equity Cabinet, composed of community leaders and residents, to work with the county, cities, communities, and the Conservation Futures Tax citizen oversight committee to help guide investments that eliminate open space inequities. De’Sean Quinn, Tukwila City Councilmember and Co-chair of the LCI Advisory Group, will co-chair the cabinet with Lylianna Allala, who also served on the LCI Advisory Group.
I am committed to saving the last, best places in King County, and created the Land Conservation Initiative to identify and protect vital forest, farmlands and green space that are most at risk. We are in a race against time to preserve these lands, and have set the ambitious goal of saving 65,000 acres in 30 years. I am proposing legislation to the King County Council that will enable us to ramp up the pace of open space preservation, while setting the stage to complete the job within a generation.
When you think about how this region is growing, it becomes clear our job is not done protecting the special places in King County where our kids can play, that give us great views, salmon runs, local vegetables, or simply a sense of solitude. Will they be here for future generations, for everyone? The Land Conservation Initiative can help us make sure they are.
Like the rest of the County, South King County is growing quickly. Investing in green spaces like those on the Weyerhaeuser Campus is important to our regional quality of life and economy – just as investing in utilities, roads, and transit – it will pay dividends for generations to come.
In many cases CFT has made the difference between parcels of land being lost to development or remaining as open space to benefit our environment, health, economy and quality of life. But it didn’t imagine the growth King County is now experiencing, and it didn’t strategically address the lack of open and green space investment in communities with the greatest need. This legislation helps take care of those issues.
The Land Conservation Initiative is an important piece in our efforts to preserve the forests, meadows, trails, lakeshore and watershed of the historic Weyerhaeuser campus, a keystone open space for residents in our growing urban area.
OneBothell partnered with Forterra, the City of Bothell, and King County to preserve the Wayne Golf Course and promote salmon and Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery, recreation, and education. King Conservation Futures Trust funding played an essential role in making this possible. The site connects the Sammamish River and Burke-Gilman Trails to the Tolt Pipeline Trail and provides a site for hands-on education of the public about how restoration work contributes to the recovery of endangered species. We look forward to the opportunities to be created by the Land Conservation Initiative to work with additional partners to restore the entire Sammamish River.
For more information, contact:
Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966