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Spokane's Conservation Futures Program Gets Money to Maintain Valuable Land

Spokane County has one of Washington’s most well-established conservation futures programs. It’s a taxpayer-approved and funded program that allows the county to buy environmentally-sensitive lands to preserve them and allow the public to enjoy them.

There are about 7,800 acres set aside all over the county, including the recently-purchased Holy Names parcel along the Spokane River, just to the north of Spokane Falls Community College.

While state law allows the county to levy the tax for the program, it limits how much of that money can be spent to maintain those lands, only 15% of what’s collected.

“The challenge faced by counties is actually developing these lands enough with parking areas and access routes and trailheads so people can get out there and enjoy it,” said Rep. Mike Volz (R-Spokane), testifying at a legislative hearing  in February.

“Given the 15-percent current limit, that often precludes counties from continuing their conservation future efforts as aggressively as they wish,” he said.

His bill proposed to raise that 15% limit to 25%. Similar bills had failed in the legislature the last two years. But the timing was right this year and it sailed through both the House and the Senate without a dissenting vote.

A few days ago, Washington Governor Jay Inslee made it official as he signed it into law.

It doesn’t change the amount of money the county raises for conservation futures; it simply raises the threshold for how much can be spent for maintenance.

County parks director Doug Chase says it’s a needed step for a program that’s now in its 24th year and growing.  

Doug Nadvornick interviews Doug Chase 

Our thanks to TVW for some of the sound in this story.