By Tracy Stanton

In the wake of King County’s Land Conservation Initiative, I got to thinking about other vital organizations working to protect the region’s landscapes, especially those on private lands. King Conservation District (KCD) is a critical conservation partner in our regional natural resource landscape. They have a unique niche in our ecosystem that is not easily replicated by other organizations or agencies. Through their direct work with landowners, to support urban and rural forest health, green infrastructure and a healthy and equitable food system, and their advocacy for collaboration around conserving the vitality of our region, KCD steps up and empowers those around them.

Nearly 50% of King County property is held in private hands and KCD is the go-to resource for those constituents. Their various programs provide education, technical assistance and cost share to support conservation actions with partners. Without those partnerships, our forests, waterways, soils, and wildlife cannot remain intact and thus remain healthy. Finally, through both their roles on regional policy bodies and their locally-responsive funding structure, KCD puts the residents of King County front and center adding significant value to the region’s natural infrastructure and economy both rural and urban.

Some Key Stats:
Since 2015, KCD has:
• Worked with 30 individual properties and 13 communities to implement wildfire preparedness strategies
• Partnered with 26 cities to improve urban tree canopy to ensure our communities are healthier and more resilient to the impacts of climate change
• Planted nearly half a million native trees and shrubs across King County for wildlife habitat
• Empowered and enabled small forest landowners to steward 1,100 acres of woods and maintain the health of their trees
• Created healthy wildlife habitat on 7 miles of shoreline on streams, rivers, and Puget Sound
• Mobilized 8,000 hours of volunteer time to improve the environment for all King County residents
• Awarded 110 grants directly to cities and their partners, totaling $4.2M to expand natural resource conservation across our 34 member cities and rural King County
• Awarded 52 Regional Food System grants totaling $3.3M to ensure increased production of and access to healthy, local food
• Improved drainage on nearly 800 acres of King County farmland, bringing flooded lands back into production and extending the growing season for local farmers
• Shared farm equipment with over 150 small farmers across King County

KCD, like most conservation districts, is funded primarily through a yearly assessment on properties, which has not changed since 2015. That current assessment paid by King County residents to support the vital work described above, (a calculation based on the value of the services received), is ~$9.00 annually. KCD is working with the King County Council to secure funding to continue this important work into the near future. Under the new proposal the average property owner would pay $11.71 annually. To learn more about KCD’s work, contact Deirdre Grace, Director of Engagement at: Deirdre.grace@kingcd.org.