King County Executive Dow Constantine announced his plan to buy up 65,000 acres of land for conservation at a May 23 press conference in Tukwila. Photo by Josh Kelety

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced his plan to buy up 65,000 acres of land for conservation at a May 23 press conference in Tukwila. Photo by Josh Kelety

King County considers buying 65,000 acres for conservation

The proposed plan would protect forests, trails, shorelines, and farms.

The Puget Sound is known for the natural beauty of its lush green belts and idyllic shorelines, and King County Executive Dow Constantine says he wants to protect that aspect of Northwest identity by purchasing 65,000 acres of county land for conservation purposes.

The plan would acquire an estimated 13,500 acres of farmland, 125 miles of space for trails connecting Eastside cities, 20,600 acres of natural lands for wildlife and recreation, 2,400 acres of green and open space in urban centers, and 26,500 acres of forestlands. Purposed property purchases include land near the Tolt River for salmon habitat restoration, dairy farmland near Enumclaw, and the lakeshore trails on the Weyerhaeuser campus in Federal Way.

In a legislative initiative rolled out on May 23, Constantine seeks to finance the land acquisitions by selling bonds. The value of the bonds would be covered by the projected revenue from the Conservation Futures Tax—a property tax for land conservation established in 1982. The plan would bring in roughly $148 million over four years.

“This is an exciting moment to save the last best places in King County and make sure that every community has access to green space,” Constantine said at a May 23 press conference at a open parcel in Tukwila slated to receive funding that would transform it into a urban green space. “Saving these places and creating green space for all is important to our future, and it’s as important as investments in affordable housing or in transportation or in any other aspect of infrastructure.”

Constantine said that the legislation will be sent to the King County Council today for consideration.

Bob Burns, Deputy Director of the King County Department of Natural Resources told Seattle Weekly that—given the region’s explosive growth, increasing property values, and high demand for land for development—the county should act now to acquire land for conservation before it becomes more expensive.

Constantine reiterated this point. “We will be able to do this more effectively and less expensively if we act now.”

The 65,000 acres were identified by county officials over the past several years and the selections were endorsed in December 2015 by the King County Land Conservation Advisory Group, a group of local elected officials and other stakeholders convened by Constantine.

Additionally, Constantine said that he will be establishing a new “open space equity cabinet” composed of “community leaders and residents” that would seek to reduce inequities in access to green spaces that exist between low-income communities and their wealthier counterparts.

Tukwila City Councilmember De’Sean Quinn framed the issue in social and economic justice terms at the May 23 press conference. “There are deserts of open space throughout King County, most of them in communities with the greatest and the most acute needs, where people and children cannot safely walk to a patch of green to relax, to de-stress, or to kick a ball around,” he said.

Research has found significant ties between access to green space and positive health outcomes, as well as spatial disparities along socioeconomic lines when it comes to access to parks and urban green space.

The legislation will also remove a cost-sharing mandate attached to the conservation fund that requires local jurisdictions to match county land conservation investments, a policy that officials say disadvantages small cities in the county with less-than-flush tax coffers.

“With the removal of the local funding match for communities like this, conservation futures funding is accessible to Tukwila,” Quinn said during the press conference at the open land parcel in Tukwila. “And now we will take action to purchase this property and turn it into a park for this community.”

jkelety@soundpublishing.com

More in News

(Right to left) Gabrielle Karber, Ritusha Samal and Teagan Grabish show off the disaster preparedness poster their group developed as part of a short activity at FEMA. Photo courtesy of FEMA Region 10, Jeffrey Markham
FEMA encourages year-round disaster preparedness

National Preparedness Month, on the tail end of hurricane season, encourages locals to be mindful.

An illustration of the difference between equality and equity. Photo courtesy of King County
King County launches reporting website for equity efforts

The new site details efforts and shortcomings as the county attempts to minimize inequity.

Snoqualmie Council asks more questions about the Salish expansion

The city council gave staff a list of questions about the Salish expansion at their Sept. 10 meeting

Snoqualmie pedestrian crossing work underway

Union strike did not signifcantly slow project build

Eastside Fire and Rescue receives donation of $35,000 drone

Eastside Fire and Rescue held a test flight of their new drone donated by supporter Barbara Hamer

Floating canopy, student driver, illegal camper investigated | Police blotter

The Snoqualmie Police blotter for Sept. 9 through 11.

Photos courtesy of Trooper Rick Johnson
Troopers seek hit and run suspect, call on public for help

The Washington State Patrol asked locals for any information to identify the vehicle and suspect.

Hiker falls, dies along Pacific Crest Trail

County sheriff’s office and other first responders launched a six-hour recovery mission.

Si View Metro Parks announces $14.7 million capital bond measure for November ballot

Si View plans to connect trails, acquire new land and improve existing parks with additional funding.

Most Read