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King County wants to spend more money saving trees, land

(Photo by Aryeh Alex, CC Images)

Keeping the emeralds in the Emerald City is a renewed priority for Executive Dow Constantine. He’s proposing legislation to protect King County’s most vulnerable lands, including forests, farmlands, and shorelines.

The proposal would expand upon the Conservation Futures Tax established in 1982.

Protecting local lands has been an ongoing issue for various Seattle leaders, as KIRO Radio’s John Curley recalls.

“Mayor Mike McGinn told me one time: ‘I remember getting on a plane and flying into Sea-Tac, and not seeing a lot of trees. We’re supposed to be the Emerald City. We should have more trees.'”

“They always say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago,” joked Curley.

In 1982, King County Council enacted the Conservation Futures Tax in a effort to purchase and preserve more than 100,000 acres of vulnerable lands. This included development rights in the Snoqualmie Forest, Puget Sound shoreline in Burien, and Seattle’s Duwamish Head Greenbelt.

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The new legislation will enable King County to sell more bonds secured by the tax, raising approximately $148 million over four years. It’s currently assessed at 3.8 cents for every $1,000 of property value.

“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,” Executive Constantine said.

The goal is to save up to 65,000 acres within 30 years, and accelerate open space preservation.

“His argument is that land values are going to drive prices even higher and higher, and some of the properties are going to be lost,” said KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney. “So if we get in now when the going is relatively good, we can still do that.”

“The only problem I have with this is how much we’re spending vis-à-vis the immediate crises that we’re dealing with in terms of the homeless, and all of that,” Tangney said. “But in general, there are a lot of good environmentalists and conservationists here that feel this is a good thing.”

And Tom and Curley did as well.

Saving vulnerable lands from development

“If you get out of the city, there are so many beautiful spots,” Curley said. “You would hate to think that pretty soon there’s going to be another development there, another cookie cutter cul de sac. To be able to save it — I have no problem with that. Good for you, Dow.”

“By the way,” he added. “King County has record revenues; they’ve got tons of money, and I think they’re looking for ways to spend it. They’re spending more of your money to save more land.”

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