County Salmon Heritage Program
In early 2007, Skagit County prepared to launch a comprehensive program to acquire conservation easements along key salmon streams in agricultural areas. The effort, known as the Salmon Heritage Program, was modeled on the countys successful Farmland Legacy program, and was intended to address long-running controversy over riparian habitat on actively-farmed land. The Salmon Heritage Program planned to raise funds through a county-wide ballot measure, pay fair market value for riparian habitat easements, and jointly manage that habitat in cooperation with the tribal-led Skagit River System Cooperative.
The initial public reaction to the Salmon Heritage Program was positive, and polling data suggests broad support for habitat acquisition as a means of balancing the environment and property rights. However, the notion of raising county property taxes as the sole funding source for such a program proved considerably less popular. The Skagit River is a regional asset, and local property taxpayers believe that the costs of safeguarding that asset should be shared region-wide. There is widespread support for the Salmon Heritage Program concept, so long as the burden of funding the effort is equitably shared by federal, state, and tribal governments. Finding funding sources for the Salmon Heritage Program, in whatever form it may ultimately take, is an ongoing and critically important topic of discussion.