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Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP)

 

There are four endangered species in Thurston County. Federal law allows you to build on their habitat (known as a 'take'), but requires lost habitat to be replaced. An HCP spells out how to do that and leads to a take permit. The County is working on an HCP to:

  • Cover liability for our permit applicants. The feds will accept a countywide HCP that covers activities we issue permits for.
  • Speed things up. It can take 24 months or more for someone to work through the federal process for one commercial building or house. A County HCP will define a fixed process and cover any project we permit.
  • Help our residents with costs. A County HCP and mitigation plan, means you won’t have to go it alone with federal agents by finding professionals to write your HCP and figure out your mitigation.
  • Keep permit decisions at the County level. If we get an HCP, the decisions are made here, not by an HCP agent at a federal agency.

Timing

If County Commissioners approve a draft HCP, the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on it. Ag producers, building contractors, conservationists and realtors have already been involved the planning.

Connection between the Gopher Review Process & the HCP

We use a Gopher Review Process to meet the federal requirements of the Endangered Species Act. This process covers our permittees from liability.

HCP facts

  •  An HCP is optional, the federal government only requires one if you build anything on protected habitat. ·         The federal government is not requiring Thurston County to get an HCP.
  • Thurston County wants an HCP so our community can keep growing.
  • A County HCP will allow us to maintain local control of building permit decisions.
  • A County HCP will provide our residents with a fixed permit process.
  • The HCP cost is not a penalty or fine. It’s the cost to purchase land that offsets development. The money buys the land and maintains it in a condition suitable for protected species.
  • HCP costs are not a single tax bill due in a year or two, they are estimates of what it will cost our community to comply with ESA laws while building out 88 percent of the developable land over 30 years. County government can share in that cost or not. It’s up to the citizens and elected officials.

 ESA facts

  • Federal ESA laws are not based on the number of animals, but on the amount of habitat.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the federal agency that oversees the Endangered Species Act.
  • Most lawsuits related to ESA liability come from conservation and environmental groups who may sue individuals, businesses and government organizations.
  • The Endangered Species Act is a federal law that can only be changed by an act of Congress.

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