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Thurston County's Prairie Habitat Conservation Plan


Thurston County is preparing a Prairie Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) in response to the Endangered Species Act listing of the Mazama pocket gopher, the Streaked horned lark, the Oregon spotted frog and the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly.

What it is

An HCP is a required part of the application for an Incidental Take Permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. An HCP describes the impacts that building and development activities may have on protected species and their habitat, and details the methods and conservation strategies that will be used to avoid, minimize and mitigate those impacts.

Why we need one: to balance conservation and development

The County issues permits for projects that might result in the destruction of endangered or threatened species or their habitat. We also conduct our own projects that could result in take of the listed species or harm to their habitat. Harming a protected species or its habitat is a violation of federal law - unless you hold a federally-issued 'take' permit.

From a conservation perspective, the HCP will outline common sense permitting practices to help protect the prairies and to minimize or avoid impacts to the species living on them.

From a development perspective, the HCP will lead to an Incidental Take Permit allowing the county to conduct projects and issue permits responsibly and without exposing the county or its permit holders to liability under ESA laws.

When it will be ready

A draft HCP is being developed. The timing of public review and submission to USFWS -  the federal authority who oversees the Endangered Species Act requirements - depends on direction from the Board of County Commissioners.

In the interim: Keeping decisions local and continuing to permit

Until the county has a take permit from USFWS, we use interim permit review processes developed with USFWS. Without these interim processes, it is uncertain what the county’s next steps would be. So far, the majority of permit applicants receive permits.

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