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


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@covingtonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.covingtonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Washington State Supreme Court Justices (back row, L-R) Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Mary I. Yu, G. Helen Whitener, (front row, L-R) Susan Owens, Charles W. Johnson, Steven C. Gonzalez, Barbara A. Madsen and Debra L. Stephens.
Justices strike down Washington state drug possession law

Police must stop arresting people for simple possession.

In Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Inslee recently announced all counties will be staying in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan for the next several weeks. Pictured: People enjoy outdoor dining last summer in downtown Kent. Courtesy photo
Inslee: All of Washington to stay in Phase 2 for a few weeks

The governor issued a weekslong pause on regions moving backward, but has yet to outline a Phase 3.

Entrance to the Tukwila Library branch of the King County Library System. File photo
King County libraries will reopen in some cities for in-person services

Fall City, Kent libraries among six selected for partial reopening.

In a zipper merge, cars continue in their lanes and then take turns at the point where the lanes meet. (Koenb via Wikimedia Commons)
Do Washington drivers need to learn the zipper merge?

Legislators propose requiring zipper merge instruction in drivers education and in license test.

A South King Fire & Rescue firefighter places a used test swab into a secure COVID test vial on Nov. 18, 2020, at a Federal Way testing site. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Masks are still king in combating new COVID strains

A top UW doctor talks new strains, masks and when normal could return.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Democrats look to allow noncitizens to serve on school boards

A Senate bill takes aim at a state law requiring anyone seeking elected office to be a citizen.

A CVS pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
State health leader: We have a plan, we don’t have the supply

Two months after the COVID vaccine landed in Washington, many still struggle to secure their shots.

Gov. Jay Inslee talks about schools reopening during a Tuesday news conference. (TVW)
Inslee signs $2.2 billion COVID relief package

The federal funds will go to fight COVID, aid renters and reopen shuttered schools and businesses.

Remi Frederick, a Village Green employee receives her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Jan. 26 in Federal Way. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Inslee: We have vaccine capacity, we just need the doses

Despite continued frustration from those seeking a shot, the state is making progress, he said.

Sunken and abandoned boat at Kirkland’s Marina Park (Photo Credit: King County Sheriff’s Office)
Abandoned boats in waterways are a ‘regional challenge,’ says King County Sheriff’s Office

Spokesperson says expensive and time-consuming boat recoveries happen about 20 times a year.

File photo
Pay freeze for Inslee and state lawmakers this year

A citizen panel approved a 1.75% increase for executives, legislators and justices 17 months from now.

Sea stars huddled at low tide (Photo credit: MARINe)
Research suggests warmer oceans are killing sea stars in Puget Sound

‘Wasting syndrome’ has decimated 70-100 percent of sea star populations in certain areas.