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Panel ranks conservation land

Spokane County to consider list of acreage worth protecting

The 36 nominations for Spokane County Conservation Futures land acquisitions have been winnowed to a top 10 list to be considered by county commissioners on Tuesday.

The commission plans to review the recommendations at 9:30 a.m. at the Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway Ave.

Since nominations closed in late October, a seven-member county parks advisory committee scrutinized properties totaling 4,700 acres.

The top ranked nomination is the 590-acre Knights Lake area, which includes Spokane River shoreline and adjoins the existing 410-acre McLellan property acquired by Conservation Futures funds in 1995.

The Knights Lake land is owned by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, which likely would make the land available for development in the future.

Conservation Futures, a voter-approved land protection program, is funded by a small property tax assessed for each home in the county.

“There will be some disappointed folks who will see their nominations farther down the list,” said committee member Jeff Lambert. “The choices were extremely difficult to make considering all the good nominations, but I’m supportive of the process. It’s fair, and it resulted in a list of fantastic properties.”

Spokane County commissioners make the final decision on which properties county parks officials should begin negotiating to buy.

“If a deal can’t be negotiated in a reasonable amount of time, new guidelines allow the county to walk away and go to the property next on the list,” Lambert said. “That’s not a big problem in this go-round since all of the top 10 nominations are great.”

The program gets about $1.7 million in annual tax revenues, said John Bottelli, assistant Parks Department director, noting that time between nomination rounds ranges from three to five years. The county could spend $6 million to $8 million buying properties from the new list before moving to the next round, he added.

“That’s not to mention the potential for leveraging additional funds through grants and other opportunities such as creative purchasing strategies,” he added.

Some of the nominated properties are assessed around $250,000 while others range to several million dollars.

“We tended to look at public value rather than cost,” Lambert said.

Educational value also is a factor, he said.

For example, the Williams Lake land includes an ancient waterfall site that helps observers understand the Ice Age Floods.

Although it’s still not clear which properties will be acquired, the committee urges people who put together nominations to continue working for preserving their sites.

“Preserving land takes time, but the results are worth it,” he said.

Since its inception in 1994, the Conservation Futures Program has secured 24 properties totaling 5,057 acres.

Knights Lake590 acres
Dishman Hills160 acres
Antoine Peak240 acres
Mica Peak920 acres
Saltese555 acres
Williams Lake15 acres
Peone Prairie20 acres
Indian Bluff204 acres
Beacon Hill 130 acres
Beacon Hill 230 acres

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