Spokane County, WA Conservation Futures Program
Status: Ongoing (Initiated in 1994)
Source File: http://www.spokanecounty.org/parks/conservation.asp
Conservation Futures At Work
In 1971 the Washington State Legislature enacted RCW 84.34.200 "Conservation Futures Enabling Legislation" recognizing that haphazard growth and urban development was encroaching upon the state's open areas and spaces. Productive lands, like agricultural and forestry areas were being altered, or even eliminated by continued urban expansion. Scenic, recreational and aesthetic lands were also at risk.
In 1994, Spokane County Commissioners adopted the Conservation Futures program for 3 years to protect threatened areas of open space, timberlands, wetland, habitat, agricultural and farm land within the county boundaries. In 1997, citizens voted to support the continuation of the program for an additional 5 years. When the Conservation Futures program was on the ballot in 2002, Spokane County voters again supported a second 5-year extension of the program implemented by the Board of County Commissioners. This period ends December 31, 2007.
What is Conservation Futures?
The 1994 adoption of the Spokane County Conservation Futures program began with a property tax assessed for each home in the county. This 6-cent tax is levied per $1000 of property value; a home assessed at $100,000 generates a tax of $6.00. This tax money is earmarked solely for the acquisition of property and development rights. These funds acquire lands or future development rights on lands for public use and enjoyment. In 2005, state legislation recognized the need to allow monies for maintenance and operations of the Conservation Futures properties. Fifteen percent of the Conservation Futures money is used toward maintaining, protecting and enhancing the property over the long-term.
The Conservation Areas, the term used in Spokane County, defines areas of undeveloped land primarily left in its natural condition. These areas may be used for passive recreational purposes, to create secluded areas, or as buffers in urban areas. As of 2005, Spokane County holds 3785 acres on 10 different properties as Conservation Areas. The City of Spokane manages an additional 8 properties within city limits. These conserved lands include wetlands, farmlands, steep hillsides, river corridors, viewpoints and wildlife habitats and corridors.
The cost of maintaining undeveloped, natural lands is minimal. Several property owners have donated endowment funds for the long-term protection, enhancement and maintenance of conservation futures properties. Volunteer groups and associations have donated their time to perform maintenance tasks on the Conservation Areas.
In addition to private donations, Spokane County Parks, Recreation and Golf Dept has worked with Washington Wildlife Habitat Program and the Washington State Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation (IAC) on acquisition grants. Spokane County Parks, Recreation and Golf has also negotiated rehabilitation and restoration grants with US Fish & Wildlife, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and the NRCS's Wetlands Restoration Program and Conservation Reserve Program. In total, the Spokane County Conservation Futures program has been supported by over $3 million in external grant funding.
Community contributions and support for Conservation Futures have come from, listed alphabetically: Back-country Horsemen, Ducks Unlimited, the Hobnailers, Inland Northwest Land Trust, the Mountaineers, Palisades Northwest, Parks to Peaks, REI, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club, Trust for Public Land and various neighborhood associations.