Envision Skagit

Envision Skagit is a partnership between Skagit County and various local and regional organizations. The county is using a land use model as a tool to engage the community about natural resource planning and decisions. 

From the Envision Skagit website:

The Envision Skagit 2060 project seeks to develop and implement a broadly-supported, 50-year plan to protect the Skagit and Samish River watersheds' many environmental values, maintain our highly productive natural resource industries, and accommodate population growth in livable, walkable, and economically vibrant communities. The project is a partnership among Skagit County and numerous local and regional organizations, including conservation groups, tribes, local farmers and foresters, cities, economic development interests and universities. The effort is funded with a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency with substantial in-kind contributions from Skagit County and its partners. The project will ultimately recommend changes to the County's and other jurisdictions' comprehensive plans and policies addressing land use planning, community and economic development, environmental protection and natural resource conservation.

Envision modeling, developed by Oregon State University, is a GIS-based tool for scenario-based community and regional planning and environmental assessments. It combines special representations of a landscape, scenarios policies, landscape change models, and models of ecological, social, and economic services to simulate land use change and provide decision-makers, planner, and the public with information about resulting effects on landscapes.

To see Envision's rationale and approach, click here

The modeling for Envision Skagit 2060 is based on input from the steering and technical committees. It allows the Citizen Committee to change assumptions in order to evaluate their consequences, using "indicators." There are indicators for the human world or "built environment" (e.g., urban residential densities, value of development subject to flood risk), indicators for the natural environment (e.g., salmon populations, wildlife habitat), and indicators for farming and forestry (e.g., acres of designated farmland, average total timber harvest). See below for the list of indicators.

All scenarios are evaluated against all indicators. The Ecosystem Scenario, for example, has been evaluated against not just environmental indicators but also agricultural, forestry and other non-ecological indicators. Similarly, the Agriculture-Forestry Scenario has been evaluated against ecological and other non-resource-industry indicators.

Ultimately, the Citizen Committee will recommend a "Preferred Future," which will be modeled as its own scenario, to be evaluated against all indicators as well. In 2001-03, a similar process was used for an EPA-funded study of the Chico Creek basin on the Kitsap Peninsula. In the Chico study (which had a more strictly ecological focus), a citizen-developed "moderate scenario" performed nearly as well on ecological indicators as a more extreme "conservation scenario," while addressing many non-ecological concerns much better. There may be opportunities to optimize multiple indicators in the Skagit, too.