County deliberates citizen-initiated land conservation program


Thurston County’s Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) met with its Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) yesterday, August 3, to decide on the future direction of the proposed Natural Landmark Program.

“This is one of those items initiated by a citizen from their perspective to help with protection in our community,” said CPED Director Joshua Cummings.  

The agenda document states that the new program would protect properties containing habitat, historic landmarks, and scenic areas that typically do not fit into existing conservation programs.

The applicant, Lawrence Jacobson, proposed that this code revision should allow landowners to enroll property at will, without meeting specific eligibility criteria, to protect habitat, historic, or scenic features present on the property. Jacobson proposed the program in July 2020; since then the county has received 52 comments in favor of it and six that are opposed. 

Currently, there are government initiatives in land preservation, such as the Open Space Tax Program, Conservation Futures, Local, State, and Federal Historic Registers, and Private Conservation Easements.

“These county programs could be used today to protect the resource types identified by the applicant’s proposal. The key difference is that [the] review and eligibility for these programs have higher standards for enrollment than the proposed natural landmark program,” said Associate Planner Bryan Benjamin.

If approved, this new program will be another option for protecting the properties by limiting their future development.

The board and CPED are still in the process of reviewing Jacobson’s proposal.