OLYMPIA – The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) and officials from Thurston County, Washington have announced the release of a final environmental report on the County’s Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).
This report – the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – is an important step in the approval process of the County’s HCP. The release of the EIS is the last step before the Service decides whether to approve the County’s HCP and issue an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) to Thurston County government. If issued, the ITP would remove the current requirement for most builders to get federal permits for local building projects affecting species covered by the plan, although they would still need county permits.
The Thurston County HCP spells out how the county government will locally manage habitat protection when permitting building projects that impact federally protected Mazama pocket gophers and other species. The report, known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), looks at how the HCP may affect the community if it is implemented.
The Service expects to announce its final decision on the County’s HCP and application for a federal permit no sooner than 30 days after the formal publication of the EIS in the Federal Register, which is anticipated on May 13.
“The County wants this federal permit (ITP) so people in our community won’t have go to the federal government for a local building permit,” said Thurston County Commission Chair, Carolina Mejia. “It will streamline the permit process, keep decisions local, and help us meet federal conservation requirements.”
Working with the Service, Thurston County developed its HCP to support wildlife conservation and a local permit process that would meet federal Endangered Species Act requirements for county permit applicants. It describes how several species listed or being considered for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act will be protected, and how potential impacts to these species would be mitigated. The recently released EIS evaluates impacts to the community that could result from implementing the plan, with consideration to issues such as traffic, noise, utilities, resource allocation, and air and water quality.
“The publication of the final EIS is an important step, and we look forward to issuing a decision on Thurston County’s permit request in the coming weeks," said Brad Thompson, State Supervisor for the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Habitat Conservation Plans are one of the many tools under the ESA that promote strong partnerships with landowners on behalf of conserving listed species on private and non-federal lands. Species proposed for coverage under the Thurston County HCP include three subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher, Oregon spotted frog, Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, and the Oregon vesper sparrow.
More information on the Thurston County Habitat Conservation Plan is available at www.ThurstonHCP.org
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/wafwo or connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.