King County caps 1st year of Land Conservation Initiative with new tools to speed up open space protections and improve access for those that need it most

One successful year is in the books for King County’s accelerated and urgent work to conserve its last, best places within 30 years, and to make sure every community has easy access to greenspace.

Conservation Futures Tax (CFT) bonding legislation adopted by the King County Council on Oct. 2, 2019, will dramatically accelerate the rate at which King County protects vital farm, forest, habitat and urban greenspaces – at least in the short term. With Council’s passage of the legislation, King County will triple the amount of funding it has available for open space protection in 2020.

The CFT legislation essentially caps “Year One” of the Land Conservation Initiative (LCI), launched in 2018 to preserve 65,000 acres of remaining vital and at-risk farmlands, forestlands, river corridors, open space lands and trail corridors throughout King County within a generation (30 years), and to improve access to greenspaces in underserved communities.

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Against a backdrop of rapid population growth and increasing impacts from climate change, speeding up open space protection before it is too late or too expensive supports Executive Dow Constantine’s vision to ensure our environmental investments bring the greatest gains and resiliency for ecological health, public health and our quality of life – as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Earlier in September, legislation was adopted ensuring that equity and social justice are prioritized in CFT funding considerations. CFT is one of King County’s main funding sources for parks and open spaces, and the change allows us and our city partners to more readily make open space investments in communities that have historically been left behind with these types of public infrastructure investments. We owe this to the hard work of the Open Space Equity Cabinet and the CFT committee, a group of dedicated King County residents and community leaders.

Kudos also to the cities of Des Moines, Tukwila, Shoreline, and Seattle for showing leadership by being the first cities to apply for and meet the newly-created open space equity criteria for the County’s Conservation Futures open space funding source. Executive Constantine’s vision is for all residents of King County have ready access to greenspace – “Greenspace for All” is the mantra.  These four cities are helping us achieve that vision, and we look forward to more city partners taking advantage of this new opportunity next year.

This work is never done – it will take persistence and continued hard work over the entire 30-year vision of the Land Conservation Initiative to ensure we maintain and sustain the ecological integrity and quality of life King County offers, particularly with growing climate change impacts and continued rapid population growth.

But we are off to a strong start.

King County government looks forward to partnering with cities, the business community, and community members and non-profit organizations to carry the work forward.

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