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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Jeremy Davis 360-754-3355 ext. 7010
Scott Clark, 360-709-3005

Public Invited to Comment on Proposed Prairie Conservation Ordinance Extension

OLYMPIA - On Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 5:30 P.M., the Thurston Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing in Room 129, Building 2 of the Thurston County Courthouse Complex, 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Olympia, WA 98502.

The hearing is to accept public comment on the proposed extension of the Prairie Conservation Ordinance (No. 14260) enacted in July 2009 as an interim regulation to help conserve south Puget Sound's last remaining prairie and Oregon white oak habitats. Ordinance No. 14380 amended and renewed the interim regulations in July 2010. The interim regulations revised Chapter 17.15 of the Thurston County Code. The interim ordinance will expire on July 28, 2011. The renewal period is proposed to be six months, and no changes are proposed to the ordinance.

The interim ordinance did NOT amend regulations for Mazama pocket gophers. The County has regulated the pocket gopher (and prairies) since 1994. If the interim prairie ordinance were allowed to expire, the County's regulations and policies regarding the pocket gopher would remain the same.

The interim ordinance provides for the protection of prairie and Oregon white oak habitats at an ecosystem scale, which benefits at least ten species of greatest conservation need.

Approximately three percent of south Puget Sound's original native prairies (estimated to be about 150,000 acres) now remain. The interim ordinance made the county's definition of prairies consistent with state and federal guidelines, requiring that persons seeking to develop areas that may contain prairies identify the location of prairies, and, as necessary, develop Prairie Habitat Conservation plans to reduce development impacts to prairies. Commissioners felt prompt action was necessary to prevent further degradation to this increasingly scarce resource. Prairies used to extend throughout Thurston County from Rochester up to an area just south of Tacoma.

Some of the south Puget Sound's most valuable remaining prairies are located in Thurston County. Prairie and oak habitats are home to endangered plants such as the Golden Paintbrush as well as threatened and endangered wildlife and insect species such as the Streaked Horned Lark, Taylor's Checkerspot and Mardon Skipper butterflies and the Mazama pocket gopher,. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has initiated a process to determine whether to list these wildlife species under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

In recent years, south Puget Sound prairies have become threatened due to development and the invasion of non-native plant species. A few of the larger prairies can be easily seen, such as the Mima Mounds and the Glacial Heritage Preserve, while others are scattered among forests, farms and houses.

For more information on the ordinance and on Thurston County prairies, contact Senior Planner Jeremy Davis at 754-3355 ext. 7010 or via email at davisj@co.thurston.wa.us.



County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3