NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

Washington’s upcoming conservation district elections sorely need progressive candidates

Where­as, there is a press­ing need for the con­ser­va­tion of renew­able resources in all areas of the state, whether urban, sub­ur­ban, or rur­al, and that the ben­e­fits of resource prac­tices, pro­grams, and projects, as car­ried out by the state con­ser­va­tion com­mis­sion and by the con­ser­va­tion dis­tricts, should be avail­able to all such areas;

there­fore, it is here­by declared to be the pol­i­cy of the leg­is­la­ture to pro­vide for the con­ser­va­tion of the renew­able resources of this state, and for the con­trol and pre­ven­tion of soil ero­sion, and for the pre­ven­tion of flood water and sed­i­ment dam­ages, and for fur­ther­ing agri­cul­tur­al and nona­gri­cul­tur­al phas­es of con­ser­va­tion, devel­op­ment, uti­liza­tion, and dis­pos­al of water, and there­by to pre­serve nat­ur­al resources, con­trol floods, pre­vent impair­ment of dams and reser­voirs, assist in main­tain­ing the nav­i­ga­bil­i­ty of rivers and har­bors, pre­serve wildlife, pro­tect the tax base, pro­tect pub­lic lands, and pro­tect and pro­mote the health, safe­ty, and gen­er­al wel­fare of the peo­ple of this state. 

To this end all incor­po­rat­ed cities and towns hereto­fore exclud­ed from the bound­aries of a con­ser­va­tion dis­trict estab­lished pur­suant to the pro­vi­sions of the state con­ser­va­tion dis­trict law, as amend­ed, may be approved by the con­ser­va­tion com­mis­sion as being includ­ed in and deemed a part of the dis­trict upon receiv­ing a peti­tion for annex­a­tion signed by the gov­ern­ing author­i­ty of the city or town and the con­ser­va­tion dis­trict with­in the exte­ri­or bound­aries of which it lies in whole or in part or to which it lies closest.

– RCW 89.08.010(4): Con­ser­va­tion Districts

Con­ser­va­tion dis­tricts around the State of Wash­ing­ton do a great job of being stew­ards of our com­mon home, the heart of Cas­ca­dia, which is in our care.

Each year, forty-five con­ser­va­tion dis­tricts across the state hold elec­tions between Jan­u­ary and March to elect new Super­vi­sors to their boards.

Pro­gres­sives have always cared about envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. Yet very few hold the posi­tion of an elect­ed or appoint­ed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict supervisor.

These elec­tions have been in the shad­ows and hid­den from vot­ers for many decades. Last year, only 7,600 vot­ers cast a bal­lot to elect super­vi­sors across the state. 6,200 of those bal­lots were cast in King Coun­ty and more than 5,000 of those votes went to one can­di­date, which means just 1,400 bal­lots were cast to elect super­vi­sors else­where across the state. There are over 4 mil­lion vot­ers in the state of Wash­ing­ton, and many have no idea about these elect­ed offices.

More to the point, con­ser­va­tion dis­tricts need pro­gres­sive representation.

At the recent state con­ven­tion for con­ser­va­tion, super­vi­sors and lead­ers strug­gled with issues around vot­ing reform and diver­si­ty equi­ty, and inclu­sion (DEI), while many oth­er orga­ni­za­tions have embraced the chal­lenges of end­ing sys­temic racism. These oth­er orga­ni­za­tions have made state­ments and set plans to address racism and ensure inclu­sion and equity.

And while con­ser­va­tion dis­tricts have made great strides in gen­der equi­ty, it remains the only lev­el of diver­si­ty that can be seen.

Wash­ing­ton’s con­ser­va­tion dis­tricts have no real plans to address sys­temic racism and vot­ing reform is stalled at the com­mis­sion level.

Many of the super­vi­sors fierce­ly defend that no elec­tion reform is need­ed, and no one is turned away that asks for help.

Super­vi­sors are wor­ried about the cost of elec­tions if forced onto a gen­er­al bal­lot, and the com­mis­sion made reform sug­ges­tions, only to vote them down.

Pro­gres­sive can­di­dates with a pas­sion for con­ser­va­tion and the envi­ron­ment are need­ed to change the tide and con­ver­sa­tion. Elec­tions will hap­pen as ear­ly as Jan­u­ary. Inter­est­ed can­di­dates should look up their near­est con­ser­va­tion dis­trict and announce their can­di­da­cy as soon as pos­si­ble.

Con­ser­va­tion has sur­vived because of ded­i­cat­ed peo­ple who believe in the preser­va­tion of our lands. The time has come to take con­ser­va­tion to the next lev­el. Pro­gres­sive can­di­dates with a pas­sion for the envi­ron­ment and the care of this great green region we call Cas­ca­dia are need­ed now more than ever.

Edi­tor’s Note: Chris Porter is a bee­keep­er and King Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict Super­vi­sor who rec­og­nizes that a clean­er, health­i­er envi­ron­ment for the sur­vival of bees is nec­es­sary. Bees are a crit­i­cal com­po­nent in sus­tain­ing our food chain. They are also like the “canary in the coal mine” – and their sur­vival is at great risk, along with the fruit we grow on our trees, the veg­eta­bles we plant in our gar­den, and the crops our farm­ers plant and har­vest to feed us all. More than one out of three bites of food we eat is there because of pol­li­na­tors such as bees.

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