About the Bush Prairie Habitat Conservation Plan
The City of Tumwater and the Port of Olympia's Olympia Regional Airport are located on the site of a glacial prairie historically called Bush Prairie after its most remarkable early resident, George Washington Bush, who settled here in 1845. Since then most of Bush Prairie has been converted to agriculture or forestry, residences, and businesses, but part of it still remains and provides a home for the unique flora and fauna of the South Puget Sound Prairie ecosystem.
The Bush Prairie Habitat Conservation Plan is being developed to balance growth and the preservation of endangered species within the City of Tumwater and its urban growth area. The Habitat Conservation Plan will conserve these species by providing long-term habitat protection across a system of managed reserve areas. The City of Tumwater and the Port of Olympia are jointly developing the Habitat Conservation Plan through the terms of an Interlocal Agreement. A summary of the scope of the HCP can be found here.
The Habitat Conservation Plan will provide for long-term preservation and management of three species, protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, that occur in Tumwater: Olympia pocket gopher, streaked horned lark, and Oregon spotted frog. Protection of habitat for these species will also mitigate for the impacts of ongoing development, maintenance, and other activities performed by the City of Tumwater or the Port of Olympia, which have the potential to harm these species or their habitat.
The affected species will benefit from assured, long-term habitat protection. The people of Tumwater and the customers of the Port of Olympia will benefit from with a federal permit authorizing impacts to these species, which will facilitate planned development and maintenance work. The Habitat Conservation Plan is expected to reduce the costs and time that would otherwise be needed for individual landowners to comply with the provisions of the Endangered Species Act.
Habitat Conservation Plan
The Bush Prairie Habitat Conservation Plan is intended to protect the three covered species, and in particular, the Olympia pocket gopher, a species that occurs only in the Tumwater area. The habitat conservation plan is a detailed plan for achieving this goal. The plan is required under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act, under which permits can be issued to "take" an endangered species by causing harm to the species or its habitat. In this case, "take" is expected to result from new development, from maintenance of City and Port facilities, and from maintenance performed at the conservation reserve sites.
The plan will include a detailed description of the activities to be performed, both for development and for species protection, and their effects upon the species. The plan will describe its governance structure and will provide assurances that the financial resources needed to make it work are available and committed to this task.
At this time, the Bush Prairie Habitat Conservation Plan is still in the early stages of development. The City and Port will be working through 2017 to lay the groundwork for the plan. Public meetings will be held in late 2017. A draft plan is expected to be ready for public review soon afterwards, with the plan being finalized and implemented later in 2018.
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