Editorial: Keep Conservation Futures special

Anyone with a pot of money these days has plenty of suitors, and Island County is no different with its Conservations Future Fund. It’s been around since 1992 when three Republican county commissioners saw the need to protect special places and imposed a tiny property tax to fund it.

The money was initially used to save public access to areas the public wasn’t legally entitled to use. Perhaps the prime example is Double Bluff, which for many years consisted of only a road-end to the beach. But people accessed it over private property protected by an ancient, worn out wood piling bulkhead.

The property owner, through the courts, obtained the right to build a new concrete bulkhead, fill in behind it, and build a couple of big condos on property the public had always used for access. County officials stepped in at the last minute and struck a purchase agreement, made possible by Conservation Futures money. Without it, the only access would be over a steep, rock-strewn road-end. Thousands of people who enjoy the beach today would be unable to reach it, and there would be no room for restrooms or picnic tables.

The Conservation Futures funds were later used to help save the Greenbank Farm and to acquire the beautiful Ala Spit on North Whidbey. Precious Camano Island waterfront access has been saved as well.

Today, every interest group with land it wants to buy is going to the county for Conservation Futures funding, much of it inland property that could be acquired through private donations or federal or state grants. The Port of Coupeville wants to renege on the land payments it promised for the Greenbank Farm. That’s not the intent of the Conservation Futures Fund.

The fund was established for special places, mainly providing waterfront access and wildlife reserves, for the people and wildlife of Whidbey Island. The commissioners will have to be tough enough to remember that and say no to a lot of the people coming to them with worthy projects, but not worthy enough for precious Conservation Futures dollars.

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