Written by Kelsey Bray
Proposition 1, a measure on the November 2022 ballot, will help crucial conservation work continue in King County. Voting yes means restoring more urban green spaces, conserving mature forests and ensuring access to the outdoors.
In short, it’s an investment in the future – one that allows everyone in King County to enjoy the best of Washington for generations to come.
What Is KC Prop 1?
Proposition 1 will support the Land Conservation Initiative, which will conserve 65,000 acres of natural space within the next 30 years. The King County Council passed Ordinance 19458, which would “provide funding to pay, finance or refinance acquisition and preservation of: urban green spaces, natural areas, wildlife and salmon habitat, trails, river corridors, farmlands and forests.”
This would restore the Conservation Futures property tax levy (CFT) which, due to a quirk in state law, has been cut in half over the years. If you want to get into the numbers, Prop 1 would bring the CFT to a rate of $0.0625 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2023. For a $500,000 home, that’s $31.25 a year or around $2 a month.
A yes vote restores the CFT to its original rate. In Washington, property taxes have two limits. The constitutional limit is capped at $10 per $1,000 of assessed value, and the annual levy growth limit is capped at 1% or inflation, whichever is less. When property values increase by more than 1% a year, levies subject to the annual growth limit can’t be as effective, according to Conservation Futures WA.
That means funding for conservation doesn’t keep pace, and it decreases as property values increase. Think about how much property values have risen in the past decade and a half – most counties are only collecting about half of what they could be. It’s a small hike that would make a big difference when it comes to conservation.
The measure has support from King County officials, as well as conservation groups like the Washington Association of Land Trusts, Audubon Washington and the American Farmland Trust. Forterra is behind KC Prop 1 as well. We know the importance of green spaces, which benefit both the land and the community that relies on them.
Benefits of Conservation
Addressing climate change
Healthy forests and green spaces are necessary for combating the climate crisis. In the Western United States, we’re already seeing the impacts – retreating glaciers, oceans acidifying, more intense weather patterns and worsening wildfires. Even if you lead a simple life, every one of us contributes to greenhouse gases attributed to climate change. For the average American, that’s 28.2 tons of CO2 per year.
However, that can be offset by restoring native plants and protecting mature trees. Then, the community can enjoy the benefits – improved air quality, reduced soil erosion and water pollution, cooler and quieter cities and reduced impacts to stormwater. It also improves habitat for fish and wildlife. We’re already starting to see improvements like these through our Evergreen Carbon Capture program, which involves planting and maintaining trees for carbon sequestration throughout Western Washington.
Another aspect of conservation that’s often overlooked is equity. A 2018 study by the EPA showed that people of color are more likely to live near pollutants and breathe in polluted air, and people in poverty are more likely to be exposed to fine particulate matter. That means power plants, gas pipelines and infrastructure like highways are often placed in their neighborhoods.
This is called environmental racism. It has far-reaching consequences, including higher rates of health conditions like cancer and asthma. Residents in Flint, Mich., a majority Black city, are still fighting for clean water eight years after governance and infrastructure failures caused lead contamination.
In King County, around 500,000 people don’t live near a green space. That means they aren’t able to experience what nature can do for a community, including strengthening neighborhoods, providing safe access to nature and improving quality of life. Studies have also shown spending time in nature can reduce stress and prevent acute respiratory conditions.
We need to make sure everyone has access to nature, not just those in wealthy neighborhoods. Please consider voting yes for KC Prop 1 on Nov. 8th!