OLYMPIA - Thurston County will use a $450,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect prairie species and habitat. The grant was one of three awarded in Washington State for projects related to conservation planning or land acquisition. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the awards on Wednesday, August 24.
Thurston County will use its grant to work on a regional habitat conservation plan that addresses listed and candidate prairie species. A habitat conservation plan is an agreement between federal and local governments for rules and regulations that protect sensitive species and manage land use. The plan provides certainty in regulation by establishing agreed-upon conditions with the federal government under which a local government can issue permits for development. Under a regional approach, Thurston County and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife would supply a habitat conservation plan to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for approval.
"Our goal is to ultimately create a plan that will take a big-picture approach toward managing impacts to sensitive species, rather than putting the burden on each and every permit-applicant to come up with a plan," said Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela.
Commissioner Sandra Romero said, "The permitting process would be less time consuming and costly, and property owners would have a more certain understanding of the conditions they'll have to meet before a project even starts."
"We're thrilled to get this grant," said Commissioner Cathy Wolfe. "It's going to help the county respond to some of the requests we hear most often: take a landscape approach to conservation, and make the permitting process simpler."
Thurston County is home to several prairie species that are candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act. To learn more about prairie habitat in Thurston County, please visit www.thurstonplanning.org and click on the "Prairie" photobox. For more information on the Endangered Species Act and habitat conservation planning, please visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's website, www.fws.gov.