The Benton County Conservation Futures Fund would give the citizens of Benton County a visible, usable, recreational resource that can be enjoyed for generations to come.
The program in Spokane County was first brought before the Spokane County Commissioners by a large organization of citizens, neighborhoods, and environmental groups concerned that the large growth in population and expanding development was dramatically threatening outdoor recreation and wildlife viewing areas. With this strong public support, the Spokane County Commissioners approved the use of Conservation Futures land acquisition for three years under RCW 84.34.200. Seeing the growing public appreciation for the kinds of land preserved, the Commissioners approved the program for another year with the proviso that it be brought to a public vote. The public has voted twice to maintain the program and in 2007 63% approved Conservation Futures with no sunset.
The Spokane Model has been introduced to the Benton County Commissioners and is being studied for application to Benton County.
Conservation Futures (CF) – Spokane County
Spokane County is marking 20 years of participation in Conservation Futures.
- 1994 – BOCC adopts Conservation Futures Levy at 6¢ per $1,000.00 for three years.
- 1997 – advisory ballot measure passes with 5-year sunset clause
- 2002 – advisory ballot measure passes with 5-year sunset clause
- 2007 – advisory ballot measure passes (63%) with no sunset clause.
As of the end of 2013…
- 40 separate acquisitions, all fee simple, totaling 7,276 acres, in 29 separate units managed by the County (some others owned and managed by the City of Spokane, and one owned by the City of Cheney).
- Acquisitions have varied:
- Trail corridor properties.
- Additions to existing parks.
- New preserves (largest is 1,066-acre Antoine Peak Conservation Area).
With two recent exception, Spokane County has financed their acquisitions by saving their accrual (pay-as-you-go). They have not bonded or engaged in other forms of long-term financing for any of their purchases. In 2010 they financed an acquisition for the City of Spokane, which involves payment over 12 years, and in 2011 they worked with their internal treasurer’s office for a 5-year loan for a county acquisition. The County has taken advantage of grants and donations to leverage their own funds and overall, about 75% of CF acquisitions have been made using the tax dollars and about 25% of funds have come from other sources.
Oversight & Outreach
- The Auditor’s Office has primary internal control over use of CF funds just as it would with any other funds.
- The LEC, which in Spokane County has representatives from three different jurisdictions, provides primary oversight of the project selection process.
- The media plays an increasingly significant role in CF in Spokane County, helping not only to advertise the program but to provide ongoing appraisal and assessment.