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Ex-head of conservation group to seek Dist. 4 county council seat

The former head of a local conservation group has announced that he will run for a seat on the Clark County Council, promising a new approach to development.

Matt Little, 46, of Fern Prairie announced Wednesday that he will seek the council’s District 4 position currently held by Republican Clark County Councilor Gary Medvigy. Little, an independent, previously spent five years with the Cascade Forest Conservancy, where he served as executive director.

“I want to bring a fresh, independent perspective to the county council, and I’d like to promote fair and balanced growth,” Little said. “I’m a fiscal conservative but otherwise an independent who wants to represent all perspectives.”

Little said that, as a councilor, he would propose agreements with cities that allow some rural landowners to transfer and sell development rights or credits. Landowners of open spaces that the public would like to protect, like farms and forests, who sell the rights to landowners and developers within urban growth boundaries would be compensated between $10,000 and $20,000 per acre.

The programs — which have been implemented in various states, including Washington — would provide an incentive to concentrate development in urban areas, Little said. In other words, he says, it would reward building up instead of out, continuing urban development while maintaining rural spaces.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Little said. “All we have to do is try, and all I’ve been told is that the Clark County Council has not been ready to try something like this. It seems like they’re pretty close to developers.”

For the past year, Little has worked as a director of investor partnerships with Social Venture Partners Portland, a nonprofit organization that focuses on early childhood education.

Before that, with Cascade Forest Conservancy, Little spoke out against exploratory mining near Mount St. Helens. The conservation group filed a lawsuit in April against the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management over the agencies’ decision to allow drilling in the upper Green River Valley at Goat Mountain.

From 1997 to 2003, Little lived in Washington, D.C., where he worked for former U.S. Sen. Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y. In Washington, D.C., and in the Pacific Northwest, he has worked with nonpartisan land management and conservation groups.

Little has lived in the Pacific Northwest for 17 years, including the past three years in Fern Prairie with his wife and two young daughters. He has a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology from Dartmouth College and a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University.

District 4 is predominantly rural, covering all of east Clark County and most of the central part of the county — including Battle Ground. In addition to the development programs, Little said he would prioritize fiscally conservative budgets and family-wage jobs.

The candidate filing period for this year’s local elections is between May 11 and May 15. The primary will take place Aug. 4 before the Nov. 3 general election.

Medvigy retained the District 4 seat in November for the remainder of the term, which expires at the end of 2020. He was appointed to the seat on Jan. 22, 2019, to replace Republican County Councilor Eileen Quiring, who became council chair.

Medvigy, citing the lengthy amount of time before the elections, said Wednesday that he has not decided whether he will run again.


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