Former city biologist seeks conservation district seat
March 9, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
Kirk Prindle, a former Issaquah city employee known for efforts to protect the dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon, seeks to re-enter the public sector next week with a King Conservation District post.
Voters in Issaquah and across most of King County will elect a new member to the conservation district board March 16. The district promotes sustainable use of natural resources, and provides information and voluntary technical-assistance programs to landowners.
Prindle seeks to join the five-member board tasked with running the district and awarding dozens of grants to Issaquah and other cities to fund environmental projects.
The candidate served as the city wetland biologist for three years until last September, when officials eliminated the position in a round of layoffs prompted by a budget crisis. Prindle said the Issaquah role inspired his run for the conservation district seat.
Issaquah and other King County cities receive several grants from the conservation district for projects as diverse as gardening classes at Pickering Barn to habitat restoration in city parks.
Although the Legislature authorized the district, the agency receives no ongoing operating budget from state lawmakers. Landowners fund the district through a $10 per-parcel assessment fee. The state Conservation Commission — as well as state, federal and local grants — provides money for the district.
The board of supervisors — with three members elected by district residents and two members appointed by the Conservation Commission — oversees the district.
The conservation district attracts little attention from residents. The most recent board election attracted to the 2,582 voters to the polls last year. Only 196 people voted in the 2008 race, when a lone declared candidate beat write-in candidates by a large margin.
Prindle encouraged residents to pay attention to the board, and the role members play in local conservation projects.
“We need on the board people who can make common-sense decisions,” he said.
Prindle will face Seattle resident Mary Embleton, the director of Cascade Harvest Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting farmers to consumers; Mara Heiman, a longtime Auburn resident with a background in water-resource issues; Teri Herrera, a Redmond real estate agent; and Renton resident Max Prinsen, a conservation district associate supervisor and the president of a wetland-conservation group.
Prindle, a West Seattle resident, serves on the nine-member Seattle Urban Forestry Commission, a panel created last year to city officials about tree conservation, protection and management.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, Prindle will step into a new role March 17, when he starts a new job as a state Department of Ecology environmental planner.
Before he joined the city workforce, Prindle, 41, worked on other environmental and planning projects throughout the Pacific Northwest. His familiarity with local environmental causes stretches back to Snohomish High School, where a young Prindle met school librarian Betty Manning — the wife of Issaquah Alps Trails Club pioneer Harvey Manning.
The early introduction provided Prindle with a window into how Issaquah residents worked to preserve open space and waterways.
“Environmental conservation is the key to the Issaquah economy,” he said.
City Parks Planner Margaret Macleod recalled how she and Prindle worked together on open-space issues. She described him as someone who was “always respectful and always listened to what other people had to say” — even when he disagreed.
Prindle criticized some local conservation projects as “over-engineered” — with too many manmade elements. In fish passages, for instance, he said officials often rely on engineering structures that can impede fish from moving upstream.
Issaquah citizen activist Connie Marsh worked with the candidate when he served as the city wetland biologist. Marsh, a Prindle supporter, said he prefers projects with few manmade features in order to allow features, like streams, to return to a more natural state.
Environmentalists honored Prindle for work he completed as the city wetland biologist. The local chapter of Trout Unlimited named him Conservationist of the Year in 2008 for his efforts to protect the Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon. Environmentalists seek to include the salmon on the endangered species list, but the federal government has yet to announce a decision on the status of the fish.
Dallas Cross, a member of the local Trout Unlimited chapter, said Prindle possesses experience, knowledge “and a damn good heart.”
“He’s a man that has a love of his work and he really has a passion for conservation,” Cross said.
How to vote in the King Conservation District election
The election for a King Conservation District board member March 16 will differ from other local elections. Unlike King County-run elections, voters will cast ballots in person for the district race.
The district will not open a polling place in Issaquah. The nearest polling locations to the city will be the county libraries in Bellevue, 1111 110th Ave. N.E., and Carnation, 4804 Tolt Ave. Polls will open from 10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. at both sites.
King County Elections does not handle the election; the district contracted with elections administrator Election Trust to provide polling locations.
Most registered King County voters can cast ballots in the election, with the exception of residents of cities outside district boundaries: Enumclaw, Federal Way, Milton, Pacific and Skykomish.
Voters must present proper identification, like a driver’s license, passport or birth certificate, at the polling location.
Learn more about the election and the district at the district Web site.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.