By Kienan Briscoe
For the Valley Record
King County aims to acquire the last private inholdings in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley to create 100,000 acres of contiguous public land and protect high-quality trout habitats — just a fraction of King County Executive Dow Constantine’s $52 million plan to invest in open space preservation.
The remaining 50 acres are located adjacent to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Natural Area. These acres are rich in various trout species including cutthroat, rainbow and the threatened bull trout. Preventing the development of these parcels for residential or other types of recreational development is important to avoid conflict, according to the county.
Forterra, a local nonprofit committed to fighting climate change with “land-based solutions,” is assisting with a “buy and hold” agreement, but has not yet acquired the property. The appraisal work has already been completed and the county is currently negotiating with the property owner. Once acquired, these parcels will be added to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Natural Area.
The Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley is a popular destination for both recreation and public use — frequented by kayakers, rafters, hikers, campers, equestrians and bicyclists year-round. The proposed parcels are the last remaining in the valley with almost 100,000 acres of public land including state and federal lands.
The project cost is estimated to total over $800,000, which includes its appraised value as well as administrative expenses, taxes and fees.
On Jan. 25, the King County executive announced a plan to invest $52 million, with funding generated in part by the county’s Conservation Futures Program, toward open space preservation supporting 36 projects that will increase access to green spaces and parks in undeserved communities and acquire land for habitat restoration — a plan recently approved by the King County Council.
The plan was approved around the same time King County voters passed Constantine’s proposal to restore the Conservation Futures Program funding to its original rate, starting this year, while maintaining the accelerated pace for open space preservation that King County kicked off in 2019. It will also advance the Land Conservation Initiative, a regional partnership to protect the last 65,000 acres of open space within a single generation. Additional funding for the new projects will come from the voter-approved King County Parks Levy, according to Constantine’s office.
Thirteen of the projects listed in Constantine’s program will be led by cities receiving a combined $16.7 million in Conservation Futures funding, which is the primary funding source for the Land Conservation Initiative (LCI) and was established more than 50 years ago by the Legislature. In 2019, voters approved the current King County Parks Levy, which includes also includes funding for open space preservation.
“The impressive list of projects approved for 2023 funding reflects the ongoing commitment of King County residents to preserve and enhance the parks and natural areas that make this a special place to live,” said Mark Johnsen, Chair of the Conservation Futures Advisory Committee. “The committee is proud to recommend funding for these projects — to protect forests, shorelines, rivers, farms, and trails, and to make our cities greener, more equitable, and more resilient to climate change. We appreciate that King County invests in high-priority conservation areas, both rural and urban.”