Lacamas Lake, Washington
7-million-dollar bond measure a major win for conservation in Clark County, Washington

It’s hard to imagine Clark County without riverside trails, parks, working forests, farmland, and rushing rivers such as the East Fork Lewis alive with salmon and steelhead. Recent news offers hope that at a time of rapid change, the county is committed to keeping nature at the heart of its growing communities.

We at Columbia Land Trust are thrilled to share that the Clark County council last Tuesday voted to approve $7 million in bonds for 10 land conservation projects throughout the county. The council is prioritizing near-term land acquisition and easements in response to the rising cost of land and the swift pace of development.

The county will manage these conservation projects through its Legacy Lands program, which partners with cities and non-profits such as Columbia Land Trust to prioritize, secure, and maintain conserved lands. The Land Trust is leading 3 of the 10 projects and is co-managing 2 more with the county and the City of Camas.

“This decision demonstrates the kind of foresight needed to create treasures like Portland’s Forest Park, to have parkland along the Columbia River as opposed to just industrial development, and to protect the East Fork Lewis River, which holds one of the most important steelhead populations in the state,” says Dan Roix, conservation director for Columbia Land Trust.

The county is bonding against its existing Conservation Futures revenue stream in order to accomplish more than $12 million worth of conservation projects over the next 3 years. The measure reflects a commitment by the Land Trust and its partners to continue nearly 30 years of work in Clark County to conserve the area’s most important natural areas, parklands, and trails before they succumb to development.

The Land Trust has been collaborating with Clark County, and most of the cities in it, since its inception. The relationship evolved over time, and for the last five years, the two groups have advanced their shared conservation vision through a formal partnership. The bond measure’s passing is a culmination of the past five years’ worth of planning and prioritization.

Furthering our conservation agenda

“This suite of 10 projects is a perfect representation of the diversity of conservation work that we think needs to happen throughout the Columbia River region, says Roix. “We could never accomplish these projects quickly enough on our own, but strong local partnerships like this allow us to leverage our expertise and resources.”

This single bond measure represents 10 percent of the $100 million worth of conservation that Land Trust has set out to support in the first four years of its new 25-year agenda for the region.

The county’s project slate includes small parks projects led by city governments, trail projects led by local governments, larger projects led by coalitions and partnerships, large-landscape conservation of working forests and wildlife habitat, and thoughtful conservation of agricultural lands that provide local food, economic, cultural, and habitat benefits, all of which supports a broader vision for the future of Clark County.

Among these prioritized projects, the county, the City of Camas, and the Land Trust are working on a plan to build complete a loop trail around the north shore of Lacamas Lake and protect lakeside wildlife habitat and parkland in an area facing looming development.

They may not be able to trace it back to a single county council meeting, but 25 years from now, the people of Clark County may well enjoy a nature-rich network of parks, trails, healthy rivers, working forestlands, and local farms thanks in large part to this week’s prescient investment.

*Learn more about our conservation agenda and our science-based, community-driven approach to leverage $4.8 million of Land Trust funds into $100 million worth of conservation across the region.