This letter is in response to Wanda Grone’s highly inaccurate assertion that the county’s Conservation Futures Fund inhibits funding to purchase land for development of so-called “affordable housing” (Feb. 11). The Conservation Futures Fund was established expressly to help nonprofits such as the Whidbey Camano Land Trust acquire and preserve forests, farmlands, beaches, wildlife habitat and other natural areas on Whidbey and Camano, and the Land Trust’s work has added immeasurably to the quality of life on both islands. Grone obviously doesn’t know that many conservation easements have been donated to the Land Trust without compensation to the owners, either from the Land Trust or anyone else.
I can testify to that because I am among those donors. In 1999 I signed an agreement placing part of my property in a conservation easement that prohibits subdivision, logging, or any type of development. I could have asked the Land Trust to purchase the property, which might have made me wealthy, or I could have asked the IRS for a big tax deduction, but I did neither because I believe some things are more important than money.
So what compensation have I received? There’s a trail through the property traveled every day by people who enjoy the surrounding forests, fields, the silence, the views, and the abundant wildlife. I routinely receive the thanks of those people and many have become friends. In my view, all those things are priceless.
A former president of the Land Trust once was asked “How much preservation is enough?” I’ll never forget his response: “How much development is enough?” Would you rather have Trillium Community Forest, or endless avenues of row houses? Crockett Lake Preserve, or a bunch of fast-food franchises and strip malls? I have no argument against affordable housing, if anyone can actually define it, but I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all solution to a perceived problem. I also believe I’m one of many residents who don’t want our islands to become just another overcrowded, traffic-clogged Seattle suburb.
The Conservation Futures program plays a vital role in keeping that from happening. It deserves everyone’s support.