AN agreement covering 43,000 acres of the White River Forest east of Enumclaw will push King County beyond its admirable goal to put 200,000 acres of forestland into a productive, protected stewardship.
The $11.1 million deal to buy development rights from Hancock Timber Resource Group secures the largest privately owned land in the county not already protected.
The county’s visionary quest began in 1999 with the transfer of development rights program.The accumulated inventory now tops out at roughly 203,000 acres.
The White River proposal goes before the Metropolitan King County Council this week. Most of the agreement will be financed with bonds paid via a modest conservation futures property tax.
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Enthusiasm for this effort crosses county and partisan boundaries. This effort began as an agreement between Pierce, King and Snohomish counties and the Cascade Land Conservancy, now Forterra, to seek out opportunities.
The “green wall against urban sprawl,” in County Executive Dow Constantine’s words, maintains open space, preserves recreational access, keeps trees growing, nurtures carbon sequestration, and provides jobs and income for decades.
The county has a handy reference for the mind’s eye to imagine the scale of this latest agreement and what is protected for future generations: a forested landscape twice the size of Bellevue.
This extraordinary opportunity is praiseworthy now, but decades from now the foresight involved will dazzle grateful beneficiaries.