Pact will aid wildlife and habitat

Bremerton Sun

By Christopher Dunagan
Sun Staff

Jefferson County, WA - 3/6/02 - Fish and wildlife habitat in East Jefferson County will get additional legal protection, thanks to a new agreement between the county and Washington Environmental Council, officials say.

The environmental council last year challenged the county's Critical Areas Ordinance, adopted in November 2000. The ordinance is required under the state's Growth Management Act, and the appeal was to be heard by the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board.

The two parties entered into intense negotiations and came away with an agreement approved Monday by the Jefferson County commissioners.

"Our dispute over the county's critical areas ordinance wasn't about the county's goals," said Jerry Gorsline of the Washington Environmental Council. "The county has always stated its goals included protecting and enhancing wetlands and fish and wildlife habitat. The dispute was about the details of how to achieve those goals."

Dave Christensen, the county's natural resources manager, said, "We're looking forward to working with WEC to put this on the ground.

"We actually began down this pathway last year when we obtained state funding to identify the best remaining salmon habitat in eastern Jefferson County," he said. "Our next projects will include wildlife habitat mapping and improving knowledge of flood hazard areas."

The new agreement requires the county to:

Follow a model policy developed by the Department of Ecology to replace wetlands disturbed by development.

Classify and protect priority species based on the type of habitat in a given area.

Identify flood hazard areas and meander patterns of each river, and protect species that inhabit the flood plains.

Initiate a volunteer effort to protect salmon habitat adjacent to agricultural lands, beginning with Chimacum Creek. If the voluntary approach is not implemented within two years, the county will adopt new regulations to deal with agricultural impacts on fish and wildlife habitat.

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