Submitted by Thurston County
On July 30, Thurston County submitted its fourth draft of the habitat conservation plan (HCP) to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), after making revisions requested by the federal agency. USFWS oversees the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and ESA-protected species in Thurston County. The county must have USFWS approval before implementing an HCP.
The HCP is designed to provide a more predictable and streamlined local permitting process for public and private development in Thurston County, saving time and effort for project applicants while meeting conservation needs of the covered species.
The purpose of the HCP is to define how Thurston County will offset construction impacts for projects requiring county permits on land with species covered by the plan (Oregon vesper sparrow, Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, Oregon spotted frog, and Mazama pocket gopher). The county must develop an HCP before receiving a federal Incidental Take Permit (ITP) which allows citizens to obtain endangered species permits through the county’s Building Development Center and move forward with development plans without having to go through their own separate federal permit process. The county will have a supply of mitigation land to offset the projects for the individual property owners.
The HCP replaces the project-by-project site reviews and mitigation process property owners and project developers currently must complete. Such a process carries uncertainties associated with time and costs. The HCP provides a more predictable, streamlined, and local permitting process for public and private development in Thurston County, saving time and effort to project applicants.
The next steps for the HCP include a legal review by USFWS and required environmental reviews. The community will have multiple opportunities to provide input as the county moves through the federal approval and local implementation process. The county is currently developing materials to simplify the content of the HCP, which is a lengthy and somewhat technical document.
To learn more about the HCP, visit the Thurston County website.