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Local Government Incentives

Conserving biodiversity provides local communities with ecosystem services such as water quality filtration, flood dissipation, water recharge and discharge, soil stability and productivity, as well as cultural and aesthetic enrichment. The role of local government is to provide for the welfare of a community. Meeting the public’s needs for health, safety, and economic livelihood are key components of community vitality. Active local stewardship efforts can complement regulatory programs and better meet a community’s resource protection needs—and can save a community money.

Local governments have the most flexibility to provide stewardship programs and opportunities for landowners of any government body in Washington. Decision makers on local planning commissions and councils are highly responsive to their constituents. Therefore, influencing the development or modification of stewardship programs is most effective in one’s own community at the level of city and county government.

In Washington, a number of enhanced stewardship opportunities are exclusive options of local governments. Along with applying land-use designations to direct community growth, local governments can provide several voluntary stewardship opportunities.

Current Use Taxation (CUT) programs offer a reduction in property taxes on private lands when the current open space amenities on these lands are thought to be a benefit to the community (Authorized by RCW 84.34.200). Thus a community may decide it is worth the tax incentive to retain the lands in their natural state. more>

A Public Benefit Rating System (PBRS) can be applied to help a local government determine which applications are appropriate for classification and what level of tax relief they should receive.Although some counties have not established a PBRS and/or received any enrollment applications, the opportunity is available in all Washington counties. The local land-use planning or assessor’s office will have more information. more> 

Transfer or Purchase of Development Rights programs are becoming more common in Washington State. On-site and off-site density transfers may be possible. more>

Local governments recognize people, organizations, and partnerships in their communities who are good land stewards. They honor conservation leaders and others who are making a difference for Washington’s biodiversity heritage. One such program is King County's Earth Legacy Initiative recognizes environmental programs, people, and companies working to improve and enhance air, land and water quality in the region.

More on Local Government Incentive Programs

  • Funding Mechanisms

    Local governments have a few ways to raise funds for conservation programs. These include conservation futures (property taxes), real estate excise tax (on property transfers), and property taxes for flood hazard reduction.

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  • Grants

    Some counties and cities offer direct financial incentives to protect, restore, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat, to improve water quality, or to improve land management.

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  • Technical Assistance

    Some local governments provide technical assistance for restoration and enhancement projects and community stewardship programs.

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