Guest column: Prop.14-7 gives us local control over money and future

The Roth family fully supports the Benton County Conservation Futures Fund Proposition 14-7 campaign and we encourage you to tag along. Prop. 14-7 will be on the November ballot and is designed to create a Benton County Conservation Futures Fund to provide funding for park land and open space acquisition, water quality protection, agricultural land preservation and wildlife habitat conservation; resulting in vastly increased outdoor recreational opportunities. The funding costs are so little, and the benefits are incalculably high; we think it’s a wise permanent community investment.

We independently came to Benton County in the early 1970s, making us almost natives at this point. Benton County’s consistent dynamic growth has created opportunities and resources available only in communities of our magnitude. A success story: If you were not one of the 200,000 visits in the last year hiking up the very popular Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve Trail created by the Friends Of Badger Mountain, you missed out on seeing everything from serious athletes to families getting some fresh air; both getting a breathtaking view. These visitors represent the woven tapestry of our diverse Benton County; all just out having some free and healthy fun. However, desirable beneficial growth has met with some disappointment because of the development and resultant disappearance of some of this area’s striking natural beauty.

Through our advocacy of Proposition 14-7, in no way are we turning tree-hugging green; we fully believe that those who own land should be able to do with it what they want. Landowners who consensually sell their land at fair market value can exercise a philanthropic option of public use dedication over private use, without pressure or condemnation. Another beauty of Prop. 14-7 is that, for 12 bucks per average household, per year — yes, per year — about $1 million can be annually raised to acquire land for perpetual community use. Most will spend more on soothing beverages in a week than the annual family contribution to Conservation Futures.

Moreover, the enabling Washington state law creates the legal forum for acquiring matching state and federal money to stretch our dollars. Thus, our program can link with non-profit and municipal resources. Conservation Futures will be governed by an objective and independent decision-making board charged with directing cash resources to deserving and highly scrutinized projects. Prop. 14-7 will enable expansion of resources to all of Benton County, not just the Tri-Cities’ side of Benton County.

If Prop 14-7 passes and the Benton County Commission wisely sides with the majority vote, we won’t be the first to jump in; 13 of Washington’s 39 counties currently have a Conservation Futures Fund. Our neighbors to the north, Spokane and Ferry counties, report glowing and popular success and support after implementation. Those relatively conservative counties are investing in permanent community owned assets; bringing with it stewardship and broadened lifestyle opportunities in perpetuity.

Several complain about tax dollars going everywhere but here after being sent off to Olympia and Washington, D.C., but Prop. 14-7 is a potential catalyst to return those tax dollars for local use. Sadly some public resources, like state parks recently, don’t have maintenance reserves, so they fall into disrepair or are simply shut down. Prop. 14-7 can reverse the flow of federal and state tax dollars and provide for maintenance reserves. The objective citizen’s governing committee will annually disclose revenue and expenditure information, and will be subject to published, annual independent audits; citizens operating consensually acquired property, mandatory accountability, money staying here.

We have gotten excited about different local projects over several decades, but no more than our enthusiasm over what we can do as a community if we pass Proposition 14-7. We encourage you to vote in the affirmative for Prop. 14-7 along with almost natives.