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Interim Permitting Strategy

Thurston County is working on an interim permitting strategy that will help the county continue to issue permits for new development before the Habitat Conservation Plan is final.

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declares a certain species to be “endangered” or “threatened,” that species is automatically federally protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Although species awarded federal protection were more than likely already protected by state and local law (e.g. the Critical Areas Ordinance), permit applicants must consult with the USFWS if there is a chance their proposed project  might cause incidental take (harm) to the listed species. The main function of the Habitat Conservation Plan is to streamline this process so developers will not have to consult with the federal government. However, the plan will not be finished for a few years.

In the meantime, Thurston County’s interim permitting strategy will cover the most common activities that would require a special permit under the ESA. Instead of waiting until the Habitat Conservation Plan is finished, those who wish to develop on lands where listed species might occur will be able to apply for necessary permits.

The interim permitting strategy is based on PHAM, or Prairie Habitat Assessment Methodology. PHAM uses objective measurements, such as parcel size, quality, proximity to other prairie parcels and vegetation to determine the overall value of particular parcels. When the interim permitting strategy is finalized, it should minimize disruptions to the current planning process. It must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before the County can implement it. We expect the final version to be approved no later than Fall 2014.


April 9, 2014

As part of a broader effort to preserve the native prairie ecosystem of the South Puget Sound area, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on April 9, 2014 it will protect four subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.  The protected subspecies –, the Olympia pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama pugetensis), Roy Prairie pocket gopher (T. m. glacialis), Tenino pocket gopher (T. m. tumuli), and Yelm pocket gopher (T. m. yelmensis) – are found in Thurston and Pierce Counties of Washington State. The listing will go into effect 30 days after the announcement. You can read the official announcement here in the Federal Register.

October 3, 2013

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined in a final rule that the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly is endangered, and that the streaked horned lark is threatened. The rule is effective November 4, 2013. The federally protected species have been added to the List of Endangered Species and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Read the final rule here.

September 3, 2013

The USFWS announced they would delay the decision to list four subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher to provide more time to develop information. Subject areas currently being explored include:

  • Nature and level of threats associated with agricultural or ranching practices to Mazama pocket gophers in Washington
  • Nature and level of threats associated with high-density commercial, industrial, and residential development or urbanization to Mazama pocket gophers in Washington
  • Distribution and relative abundance of Mazama pocket gophers, including maps and survey information, in Washington

August 29, 2013

Current evidence suggests that the Oregon spotted frog is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. As a result, USFWS has proposed to protect the frog as a threatened species under the ESA. They also proposed to designate 68,192 acres and 23 stream miles in Washington and Oregon as critical habitat. Click here to read the proposed rule.

Public meetings

There are no public meetings scheduled at this time. To receive news and notifications about the Habitat Conservation Plan, join our mailing list by clicking here.


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Contact Us

Interested Parties: If you would like to be added to our Web Mail list, please click here. Staff contact: Andrew Deffobis, Associate Planner. Phone: (360) 754-3355, ext. 5467. E-mail: deffoba@co.thurston.wa.us.

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