Economic benefits of protecting land for fish, families and farmers

By Cynthia Wilkerson, The Wilderness Society

Hiking in Esmeralda Basin

You hear a lot about public lands being an economic black hole for rural communities. A Kittitas County report says that the opposite may be true.

Kittitas County supports the lands and rivers protections of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. Most of the private and public land conservation options are in Kittitas County. The county is taking a hard look at what the citizens of Kittitas County could gain or lose from protecting county lands. Guiding this work is a Citizen’s Advisory Committee. As a Kittitas County resident, I am a member of that committee.

The Citizen’s Advisory Committee provided ideas regarding potential impacts, such as loss of tax revenues, to include in the report. Recently we met to review the initial findings of the analysis.

Here’s how the Kittitas County stands to gain from protecting these important lands:

  • Private land conservation will actually increase property tax revenues to the county.
  • National Recreation Area designations have a substantially positive impact if recreation infrastructure, like campgrounds and trails, is enhanced on those lands.
  • The initial analysis doesn’t quantify the benefits of bringing salmon populations back to historic levels in the Yakima Basin. We’re working to add that in and expect it to be a significant gain for tourism and fishing industries.

I look forward to reading the final report. Stay tuned to hear more about how protecting public lands in the Yakima Basin makes good economic sense.