Trails for everyone, forever

Home News Blog Was Your Favorite Trail Protected by This Little-Known Program?

Was Your Favorite Trail Protected by This Little-Known Program?

Posted by Francakes at May 15, 2015 06:40 PM |

Treasured places like Antoine Peak and Iller Creek in Spokane, the Duwamish Greenbelt in King County and more will remain in the public trust thanks to the Conservation Futures program.

Spokane Family Antoine Peak
Spending the day at Antoine Peak is a Spokane tradition. Photo by Holly Weiler.

In the last decade, as Spokane's population boomed, outdoor recreationists and conservationists worried they would lose access to a beloved local refuge, Antoine Peak, to private development.

But thanks to an innovative program called "Conservation Futures," Spokane County was able to ensure future access to the mountain. Nearly 130 miles of trails in Spokane County have been protected by the program since it was implemented.

On the other side of the state in King County, the trail miles are more difficult to parse out, but David Tiemann, a project manager at the County, said access to some of the most popular trails in the Puget Sound region have been preserved by the program.

"One really critical thing is that we've been buying a lot of trailhead properties through the program," said Tiemann.

Mailbox Peak's trailhead is currently being acquired. In previous years, Conservation Futures dollars have protected the trailhead at Rattlesnake Ledge and Mt. Si while also connecting critical urban trail links on the Burke-Gilman Trail and others.

This little-known program funds conservation projects with a small portion of property taxes for a huge return on investment and strengthening the legal framework that protects our natural heritage.

Conservation for the future backed by legislature

Recreation advocates at WTA and at our partner organizations work every day to show that the outdoors are not just something that's "nice to have," but a "must have" for a healthy and vibrant state.

This hasn't always been a point of argument though. During the early environmental movement in the

1970s, the state legislature passed a bill declaring, "it is in the best interest of the state to maintain, preserve, conserve and otherwise continue in existence adequate open space ... and to assure the use and enjoyment of natural resources and scenic beauty for the economic and social well-being of the state and its citizens."

This declaration created the Conservation Futures Tax. Slowly, counties across the state have implemented the program and it continues to provide critical funding for trails more than 40 years after its creation.

Counties with Conservation Futures programs include: King, Spokane, Whatcom, Clark, Ferry and Skagit. More are being added each year as communities seek new sources of funding for the outdoors as programs are cut at the state and federal level.

So what?

In the program, counties only work with willing sellers and they pay market value. This means that landowners are paid fairly and the community gets a bargain because the land is then protected in perpetuity.

Treasured places like Antoine Peak and Iller Creek in Spokane, Squak Mountain and the Duwamish Greenbelt in King County and many more across the state will remain in the public trust forever thanks to this program. And it all comes at an incredibly low cost to the taxpayer, only about 6 cents per $1,000 of a home's value.

Paul Knowles, Spokane County Parks Planner, told the Inland Northwest Land Trust, "Conservation Futures is about more than preserving wildlife habitat and connectivity; it's about preserving and improving the quality of life for future generations."