EDITORIAL: County ignores Krueger Farm

When Friends of Krueger Farm was in need, Island County commissioners did not lend a helping hand, a decision based on a poorly-considered policy adopted years ago that commissioners could easily change.

Friends of Krueger Farm was the only applicant for this year’s disbursal of Conservation Futures funds. The effort to acquire the undeveloped farmland inside Coupeville city limits perfectly fits the criteria for conservation futures spending — it’s earmarked for projects that enhance conservation and access to public lands. It should have been a shoo-in for substantial financial support.

Unfortunately, the commissioners have a conservation policy based in part on politics. Commissioner District 1 got more than its share of early Conservation Futures spending, caused by the purchase of Greenbank Farm and Double Bluff beach access. Commissioners from districts 2 and 3 wanted to equalize the spending, so they passed an ordinance requiring that District 1, which has most of the land mass in the county, and districts 2 and 3 combined, receive an equal share of funding. This equalization effort has gone on for several years, but is still short of its goal.

If Friends of Krueger Farm could hook up the desired Coupeville land to a tractor and pull it about five miles north, it would be in District 2 and suitable for public funding. Unfortunately, that can’t be done, and the commissioners are sticking to their equalization policy.

The equalization policy makes some political sense even though it’s nonsense to judge conservation projects based on political boundaries. But politics being politics, it’s easy to see why commissioners from districts 2 and 3 would be jealous of 1’s spending advantage. But there should be an escape clause in the equalization policy, making it possible to help save some property in District 1 even if it puts 2 and 3 a bit further behind. An emergency could be declared, allowing a particularly prime piece of property to be acquired even if it’s on the other side of the political boundary.

Krueger Farm is the best conservation project presently in progress in Island County, and it’s the only one seeking funding this year. Policies adopted by the county commissioners aren’t the 10 Commandments. They can be changed by a simple 2-1 vote.

Rather than saying “sorry” to Friends of Krueger Farm, the county commissioners should change their policy to allow this exemption to their districting rules. Inflexibility is not something most voters want to see in their elected commissioners.

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