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Executive thanks Governor for Smart Communities award recognizing completion of wall against sprawl

Summary

King County’s success in permanently protecting from development 43,000 acres of the White River Forest east of Enumclaw – essentially completing a “green wall against sprawl” – today earned the County a Smart Communities Award from Governor Jay Inslee.

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King County’s success in permanently protecting from development 43,000 acres of the White River Forest east of Enumclaw – essentially completing a “green wall against sprawl” – today earned the County a Smart Communities Award from Governor Jay Inslee.

“This is a great honor and I want to thank the Governor for recognizing that we have achieved our ambitious goal of protecting 200,000 acres of working forests countywide,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Of course the real winners are the people of King County who will forever benefit from preservation of the largest remaining swath of unprotected forestland in the county, and extension of our green wall against sprawl.”

Now in its eighth year, the Governor’s Smart Communities Awards recognize achievements by local leaders who promote smart growth planning and projects that contribute to quality of life in Washington state. King County received a “Smart Choices Award” for “Implementation of a Comprehensive Plan.”
The Metropolitan King County Council on April 8 unanimously approved the Executive’s agreement with Hancock Timber Resource Group for purchase of development rights and a conservation easement that will protect from development a parcel that is twice the size the city of Bellevue. The award announcement calls it “a perfect use of the transfer of development rights (TDR) program.”

“Winning the Governor’s Smart Communities Award for preserving the White River Forest acknowledges our efforts to grow our region gracefully, helping to maintain our high quality of life,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, Chair of the Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee. “As population and jobs expand in King County, that growth will occur in cities, rather than over the top of our forestlands and critical habitat and natural resource areas.”

“The White River Tree Farm is a prime example of the commitment we have as a County to ensuring these important pieces of land are preserved for generations to come, and this award recognizes that,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, whose district includes the White River Forest parcel. “This sale preserves not just a working forest and local jobs but also an area where county residents currently enjoy various outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, horseback riding, hunting and fishing.”

“This award is a reminder that King County continues to successfully balance our environmental responsibilities to future generations with the economic and recreational needs of the present,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “Everyone involved in the effort that led to this award deserve our thanks.”

The White River Forest is located along scenic Highway 410, which takes motorists to Crystal Mountain ski resort in the winter and over Chinook pass in the summer.

Making up nearly one-fifth of the private commercial forest lands in King County, the White River Forest is an important part of the County’s timber resource industry. An analysis of countywide timber harvest data suggested that in 2010 the White River Forest yielded nearly 10 million board-feet with an estimated timber value of $3.5 million, supporting more than 350 jobs in forestry.

The White River Forest is a critical component to a large north-south wildlife habitat link that connects Mount Rainier National Park in the south to the upper Green and Cedar river watersheds that lie to the north. It is also an important east-west wildlife corridor, providing an uninterrupted link from the lowlands to the Cascade crest.

The County’s forestland preservation effort was recognized by Smart Communities for meeting such Washington State Growth Management Act goals as:

  • Maintaining and enhancing natural resource-based industries, including productive timber, agricultural, and fisheries industries. Encouraging the conservation of productive forest lands and productive agricultural lands, and discouraging incompatible uses.
  • Retaining open space, enhancing recreational opportunities, conserving fish and wildlife habitat, increasing access to natural resource lands and water, and developing parks and recreation facilities.
  • Protecting the environment and enhancing the state’s high quality of life, including air and water quality, and the availability of water.

The White River Forest preservation was also held up as a model public/private partnership resulting in significant public benefit for all residents. Among the benefits recognized by Smart Communities:

  • Preservation of 350 jobs in the timber resource industry.
  • Ecological benefits that result in additional protections to flood-prone urban areas downstream of the White River Forest.
  • Environmental benefits including carbon sequestration and habitat protection for elk herds, marbled murrelet, Chinook salmon, bull trout, and northern spotted owls.
  • Prevents private development of a popular recreation area that contains dozens of existing hiking and equestrian trails with the opportunity for more.
  • Permanent preservation of an undeveloped and forested scenic drive along Highway 410.

Among the Governor’s other Smart Communities awards is one to the city of Normandy Park for its Manhattan Village subarea plan and planned action ordinance that includes receipt of TDRs from King County.

For more information, including maps of the White River Forest receiving protection, please visit www.kingcounty.gov/whiteriverforest

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King County provides regional services to nearly 2-million residents including 250,000 people living in unincorporated areas. Services include Metro transit, public health, wastewater treatment, courts, jails, prosecutors, public defenders, community and social services, the King County International Airport, and local services such as police protection, roads service, and solid waste transfer station and landfill services, plus more than 26,000 acres of parks and natural lands, and 175 miles of regional trails. King County is the 14th largest county in the nation by population, and covers 2,134 square miles, 39 cities, 760 lakes and reservoirs, and six major river systems with 3,000 miles of streams.

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