What is the Land Conservation Initiative?
The Land Conservation Initiative is the way we can protect the livability, health, and ecological integrity of our region for everyone. Access to nature and open space is the foundation to our collective quality of life. However, development threatens working lands that produce food, jobs, and a rural way of life. The Initiative sets forth the goal of conserving and preserving 65,000 acres of remaining high conservation value lands throughout King County within the next 30 years.
This Initiative is a regional collaboration between King County, cities, business people, farmers, environmental partners, and others that began by creating a strategy to preserve our last, most important natural lands, resource lands and green spaces.
“The main goals of the Initiative are to accelerate investments in land conservation to save money, to ensure critical natural areas and resource lands can be preserved before they are lost to other uses, and to ensure green space for all residents,” said Bob Burns, Deputy Director of King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. “Prior to the Initiative we estimated it would take 60 to 70 years to protect those 65,000 acres. The goal of the Initiative is to cut that in half. Because land values rise faster than the growth of our revenue streams, accelerating the pace to within 30 years will save an estimated $15 billion.”
The 65,000 acres of land fall within six categories: urban green space, trails, natural lands, river corridors, farmlands, and forests.
How is this initiative funded?
The primary funding source is the Conservation Futures Tax (CFT) fund, which is a property tax that exists on all parcels in the county. The CFT requires a 50 percent match in most cases.
“We work to find match dollars, from other local, state or federal sources, to pair up with the CFT fund,” Bob said. “One way we invest our land conservation dollars is to buy farmland easements on our most valuable agricultural lands. Easements to remove development rights from private lands will preserve farmland and help keep farmland affordable and active, supporting local food production.”
How will it help protect agricultural land and green space in King County?
“Approximately 15,000 acres of the 65,000 acres goal is agricultural land,” Bob said. The Farmland Preservation Program (FPP) is an important component of this Initiative by preserving rapidly diminishing farmland through development rights purchases.
In addition to the 15,000 acres of agricultural land identified in rural areas, the Initiative also plans to protect 2,500 to 3,000 acres of urban green spaces, some of which could be used for community gardens.
“An exciting component of this Initiative is urban green space preservation,” Bob said. “A key goal of the LCI is to ensure there is green space for every resident in King County. We want to make sure every neighborhood has green space. These green spaces will be preserved in ways that focus on resident interests and needs. The communities will drive how these green spaces will be used, whether that is through a community garden, open space, or other passive use.
“Green spaces provide a multitude of benefits for residents, and not all of our communities currently experience these benefits,” he said. “Every resident should have the opportunity to live their best lives, and providing access to open spaces for every neighborhood will help eliminate disparities in the quality of life for residents.”
In addition to addressing open space inequities, preserving farmland and green spaces will support locally grown food, which helps strengthen the local food economy and increase community resilience in the face of climate change.
“Investing in the preservation of farmland and green spaces will strengthen our local economy and promote a more robust local food system, which will benefit us all,” Bob said.
Learn more about the Land Conservation Initiative here.