Thurston County Courthouse

Thurston County Courthouse

Last week, the Thurston County Board of Commissioners submitted the third draft habitat conservation plan (HCP) to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

USFWS oversees the Endangered Species Act and the ESA-protected species in Thurston County.

According to the county, the HCP provides guidance on how the county will offset construction impacts to the habitat of protected species resulting from development approved by the county. The intent of the plan is to obtain a federal Incidental Take Permit (ITP). The ITP provides federal regulatory coverage for most applicants who receive a county building permit. The HCP allows for property owners and project developers to use property occupied by federally protected species by allowing them to pay for mitigation elsewhere in the county, via mitigation credits administer by the county.

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, according to the county.

The next steps for the HCP include a review by USFWS. County residents will also have multiple opportunities to review and provide input as the county moves through the approval and implementation process.

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