Skagit streamside buffer plans rejected before

The Skagit Valley Herald (subscription required) offered a brief history on Sunday of the 11-year “saga of streamside buffers.”

Skagit County’s proposed Salmon Heritage Program is merely the latest attempt to resolve a dispute that has pitted farmers against fish advocates and has reached the state Supreme Court. It incorporates many elements from previous plans, including the target of bringing just 80 percent of the eligible land — rather than 100 percent — into the program.

On the opinion page, Skagit County Commissioners defended the proposal to use property taxes to compensate farmers for creating streamside buffers on their land.

Farming and salmon define our common heritage, and the Skagit County Board of Commissioners is determined to protect both for future generations. Accordingly, on March 22, we unveiled the Salmon Heritage Program. The program will give well-deserved compensation to agricultural landowners who volunteer riparian habitat easements to protect salmon and water quality.

Environmental laws designed to protect salmon and water quality hit agriculture disproportionately hard. Here in Skagit County, we are uniquely committed to protecting agriculture. That doesn’t just mean protecting the land. It also means ensuring agriculture itself remains economically viable. You don’t have farms without successful farmers.

The program proactively demonstrates Skagit County’s commitment to salmon recovery and water-quality protection at the state and federal levels, and that’s good for everyone in Skagit County.