Conservation easements help preserve 7,000 acres in the largest remaining block of open space in the Mountains to Sound Greenway
The Metropolitan King County Council today closed a gap in the region’s “curtain of green” with its unanimous adoption of legislation to keep approximately 4,000 acres along the Raging River in unincorporated King County free from development, as part of a 7,000 acre acquisition by the State.
“Preservation of the Raging River continues the legacy of keeping the Mountains to Sound Greenway green,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, prime sponsor of the ordinance. “King County’s contribution to this transaction is integral to making the deal work. I am so proud that we have taken this opportunity and I was proud to help lead the effort.”
“Preserving the Raging River from development is a signature moment,” said Council Vice Chair Bob Ferguson, co-sponsor of an amendment to ensure that funds dedicated for the purchase of open space were made available for this preservation effort. “King County residents can now enjoy this beautiful area for generations.”
The Raging River property is the largest remaining block of open space in the Mountains to Sound Greenway, a 100-mile stretch of green space along I-90 from the Seattle waterfront to Central Washington. It includes forests, farms, historic sites, lakes, campgrounds, rivers, trails, wildlife habitat and local communities. The property contains the headwaters of the Raging River, one of the most important rivers for Chinook salmon recovery and one that has been a priority for King County and environmental groups for a very long time.
“Preserving this working forest land in perpetuity ensures that our iconic evergreens will remain a part of the landscape of the Cascade foothills for all generations to come,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, co-sponsor of the ordinance. “Having these 7,000 acres protected means that the people of King County will always have this land for hiking, protecting water quality, absorbing greenhouse gases, and harvesting timber. It’s an amazing legacy to leave for our children and grandchildren.”
“This critical acquisition of open space along the Raging River continues King County's legacy of preserving our forest open space for wildlife and future generations to enjoy,” said Council Chair Dow Constantine. “Executive Sims deserves credit for working on important projects like this right up until his last day in office.”
The adopted ordinance authorizes $3.7 million for the purchase of development rights for a conservation easement on the approximately 4,000 acres of land. Funding comes from reprioritized projects in the county’s Conservation Futures Fund, the 2007 Parks Expansion Levy, the county’s Transfer of Development Rights Bank, an interfund loan, and funds already set aside for the Raging River property. The Conservation Futures program and the Parks Levy are voter-approved levies that can only be used to purchase parks, open space or resource lands throughout King County. These funds cannot be used to support the county’s general fund, which faces a projected $43.4 million shortfall for 2010.
Legislation proposing the purchase of the development rights was transmitted to the Council only two weeks ago, on April 20. Due to tax implications involved in the negotiated agreement, the transaction must close by May 20th.
The land is part of a 7,000 acre property that is being purchased by the state Department of Natural Resources. King County’s contribution has the dual purpose of making the purchase financially feasible for the state while preserving 4,000 acres of open space in perpetuity. King County’s contribution helps to bring down the cost of the purchase by the state, and the conservation easement restricts development over most of the land and protects it forever.
“The most efficient and important flood storage system is in all of our forests, which operate as sponges to soak up stormwater,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who represents the Snoqualmie Valley. “Preserving this corridor and this forest will help limit flooding for future generations. This agreement involved 15 years of work by the Mountains to Sound Greenway and others. This partnership agreement with King County, the state Department of Natural Resources, the Cascade Land Conservancy and Mountains to Sound Greenway is an excellent example of how working together and collaborating can get things accomplished.”
“This legislation is an example of the benefits that come from public/private partnerships,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “Working on a state and county level with regional stakeholders, we’ve adopted a plan that ensures this property will remain available for limited logging and recreational uses, but is closed to development.”
“This is such an important piece of property to our quality of life and our environment,” said County Executive Ron Sims. “We will preserve resource jobs, open space, fish and wildlife habitat, and view corridors and connect other open space already protected by public ownership.”
On Wednesday, May 6, Councilmember Dunn is also hosting a Council Town Hall Meeting on the Mountains to Sound Greenway:
South Bellevue Community Center
14509 SE Newport Way, Bellevue
6 p.m. - public reception
6:30-8:30 – program
Stakeholders and staff will provide a briefing on the origin and importance of the Greenway, how it serves the people of our region, and the major challenges facing the Greenway.
The public will have a chance to ask questions, share their ideas, and provide public testimony on the Greenway or any other issue.