Editorial: Blow Up Conservation Futures

I’ve talked to folks who have visited the new round of Conservation Futures properties. Unbelievable. This round offers conservation, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities that the program could only dream about in years past. We have a chance to preserve from development parcels that would have amazing public benefit to the citizens of Spokane County.

And that’s the problem. There’s too much. Thirty-six properties have been nominated representing ten of millions of dollars of real estate and thousands of acres, but the pool of Conservation Futures money hovers just above a million dollars a year and has shrunk further with a recent special opportunity obligation. That means there are going to be some very hard choices about which properties make this year’s cut. Only a handful will likely be selected, and one or two of the best properties could easily swallow this whole round of funding. Even in this economy some of these properties could be snatched up for development the moment they don’t make the Conservation Futures cut.

So what to do? We need to bond out our Conservation Futures funds. That means borrowing a big lump sum against our annual CF revenue stream to create a chunk of change to take advantage of this historically low real estate market and bring in some conservation properties that could become the crown jewels of our mini-National Park system. Now is the time. Debt service on these types of transactions are at historic lows. Conservation Futures is still one of the most popular public expenditures in all of Spokane County.

Several other counties in the state have done this. San Juan County has bonded out their conservation money three times in the last 20 years to bring in priceless properties like Turtleback Mountain that had broad public support. King County did it in the early 90s and preserved a wide variety of lands in both cities and the county that would have been lost forever. I’ve spoken with folks from both these counties and their conservation bonding actions are today regarded universally successful.

Aren’t our conservation properties worth it? If you care about the conservation, recreation and wildlife habitat opportunities in Spokane County, please join me to start the discussion of this idea. The Conservation Futures public meeting will be October 12 at the IMAX Theater in Riverfront Park. Please come and advocate for your favorite property and for expanding the Conservation Futures program as a whole.

editor (at) outtheremonthly.ziplinestaging.com

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