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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Voters reject Kootenai County bond to preserve open space for conservation and recreation

A convertible motors past a canola field along Idaho state Route 53 on the Rathdrum Prairie in 2003.  (BRIAN PLONKA/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Voters in Kootenai County rejected a $50 million property tax that would have enabled the county to purchase land to preserve as natural open space.

If the tax had passed, proceeds would have gone to the purchase of undeveloped land for preservation. That property would then have been used for scenic and recreational purposes, offer a refuge for local wildlife and, by purchasing land above the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, would have been used for aquifer protection.

Special attention would have been given to the Rathdrum Prairie, which sits between Coeur d’Alene, Hayden and Post Falls and has been shrinking in recent years, giving way to rampant growth.

Similar bonds have been successfully implemented by other governments in the West including in Spokane County, with its Conservation Futures Program, and in Missoula County, Montana.

The proposed tax was opposed by 53% of voters and would have cost the median home owner in the county around $29 each year.

Kootenai County Commissioner Bill Brooks supported the bond in July, when commissioners agreed to put the measure on the ballot, but said he changed his mind and opposed it because he didn’t think the measure was clear enough on how collected tax dollars would be spent.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Brooks said. “Having people pay $50 million for something that isn’t very well defined never does work very well.”

Brooks said he would not support the ballot measure if it were to be given a second chance without being better defined.

“The people said they didn’t want it,” he said.

Roberta Simonson, of Deer Park High School, is a member of The Spokesman-Review’s Teen Journalism Institute, a paid high school summer internship program funded by Bank of America and Innovia Foundation. As the only paid high school newspaper internship in the nation, it is for local students between the ages of 16 and 18 who work directly with senior editors and reporters in the newsroom. All stories written by these interns can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor. Simonson can be reached at (509) 459-5451 or by email at

Roberta Simonson's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.