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 Looks to Buy 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 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 bonds’ value 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 to 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 on Thursday, May 24, 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 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” which 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@seattleweekly.com

More in News & Comment

Malena Gaces, left, and other members of Washington CAN protest unfair move-out charges and alleged discriminatory behavior outside Kitts Corner Apartments in Federal Way in 2018. Sound Publishing file photo
King County could increase tenant protections

The council is considering ordinances designed to help renters.

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
The smoky summer that wasn’t

While Washington had a mild season, wildfires burned near the Arctic.

‘I will pay the fines’: Property owner violates city code with large sign opposing marijuana retail in Federal Way

Sign stirs controversy over property owner’s donation of building space to city for potential police substation.

Former classmates, teachers remember murdered Federal Way teen

Sarah Yarborough was strangled on FWHS campus in December 1991; her suspected killer was arrested nearly three decades later on Oct. 2.

Dane Scarimbolo and Dominique Torgerson run Four Horsemen Brewery in Kent. They were almost shut down in late 2017 by King County, which after years of letting them operate a brewery and taproom, decided they were in violation of county code. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Proposed winery ordinance irks King County farmers, neighbors and businesses

Concerns include more traffic, higher land prices, code enforcement and compliance.

Two Federal Way gang members charged with murder of teen dumped in Green River

Suspects allegedly brutally beat boy with a bat, chopped him with a machete before dismembering and dumping his body.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Kim Schrier held a roundtable at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank on Oct. 3 to talk about the Trump administration’s plan to further change SNAP food benefits rules and reduce the number of people using them. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Murray, Schrier vow to fight White House restrictions on food stamps

Senator and Representative met Oct. 3 at Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.

King County is considering ways to increase both the supply of and demand for compost to help divert organic material from the landfill. File photo
King County wants to boost composting market

In 2018, around one-third of material sent to regional landfill could have been composted.

Bellevue is the most expensive place in the region to rent an apartment, according to a new analysis. Courtesy photo
Several King County cities are among most expensive to rent in Northwest

Bellevue topped the list for highest apartment rents during the first half of 2019.

Most Read