Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are an Incidental Take Permit and a Habitat Conservation Plan?
A: An Incidental Take Permit (ITP) is required when non-federal activities will result in “take” of species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is a document that must accompany an application for an ITP, and it provides the proposed terms and conditions of the ITP, including mitigation for take.
Q: What is Take?
A: The federal ESA defines take as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct." The ESA prohibits take of wildlife species listed as threatened or endangered without a permit from the federal government. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers the ESA for most listed species.
Q: What is the Bush Prairie HCP?
A: The Bush Prairie HCP is being led the City of Tumwater and the Port of Olympia. The Bush Prairie HCP will serve as the basis for an application for an ITP from the USFWS. The HCP and ITP:
- Help facilitate development, allowing growth in accordance with local and State of Washington laws in the City and at the Airport, and to protect biological resources, including ESA listed species and their habitat.
- Helps the City and the Port of Olympia (jointly known as the Permittees) to develop a shared long-term framework for management tools such as protocols, incentives, and acquisition strategies that provide for the long-term preservation of covered species and assurances for all participants.
- Builds on local efforts by Thurston County, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Center for Natural Lands Management, and others to maintain and restore the South Puget Sound prairie ecosystem, a rare and declining natural community of native species.
- Describes how to avoid, minimize, and mitigate effects on ESA endangered and threatened species, and species expected to become listed, from activities and projects conducted in the City of Tumwater and at the Olympia Airport.
Q: What is the HCP Plan Area? What is the HCP Permit Area?
A: The HCP Plan Area (approximately 44,009 acres) is defined as the area where covered species may occur within the City’s Urban Growth Area (UGA) as the UGA exists at the time of approval of the HCP and an additional area south of the UGA in the range of the Olympia pocket gopher where the UGA may expand, and some mitigation may occur.
The HCP Permit Area (12,877 acres) is the geographic area where the ITP applies for most covered activities. It includes the areas where the City exercises permitting authority and the Port's jurisdictional boundaries in the City’s UGA, including the Airport. The UGA is a regional boundary that helps control sprawl by defining where urban development will occur within the City and those areas of the unincorporated County where the City may annex in the next 20 years.
The Permit Area for Conservation Only (31,132 acres) is defined by the remaining range of the Olympia pocket gopher outside of the UGA. The Permit Area for Conservation Only includes an area in which some lands will be acquired and managed by the Permittees for the purposes of covered species conservation.
Q: Will the Bush Prairie affect my project?
A: Maybe. Many projects within the City of Tumwater will not be affected by the HCP because they will have no adverse impact on the covered species. Projects that remove habitat for the covered species will likely be affected by the HCP, and will be required by the City to follow the procedures outlined in the HCP. The HCP will spell out clearly which projects are exempt from the HCP and which projects are subject to the HCP. These requirements are part of the HCP that will go through public review prior to adoption by the City and Port.
Q: If my project will be built soon, do I need to comply with HCP?
A: No. The HCP will only apply to projects that seek development authorizations from the City or Port after the HCP is adopted. Projects that get their City authorizations prior to HCP adoption do not have to use the HCP, but may need to receive take authorization through another process.
Q: How does the Bush Prairie HCP differ from the Thurston County HCP?
A: They are separate documents serving different jurisdictions. The permit area for the Bush Prairie HCP is limited to the City of Tumwater urban growth area, while the permit area for the Thurston County HCP applies to the rest of unincorporated Thurston County (i.e., outside incorporated cities). The Bush Prairie HCP also covers only a subset of species addressed in the Thurston County HCP. The ITP for the Thurston County HCP will be issued to the County. Projects that occur under County jurisdiction can obtain ESA compliance through the Thurston County HCP. Projects under the jurisdiction of the City of Tumwater can obtain ESA compliance through the Bush Prairie HCP.
Q: What are covered species and what species are covered under the Bush Prairie HCP?
A: Covered species are those species for which the Permittees are requesting incidental take authorization. The Plan Area provides habitat for a variety of species, including species listed under state and federal endangered species protection laws. Covered species were selected for the HCP based on review of all species of conservation concern known or suspected to occur in the Plan Area during the permit term. The following species are considered covered species under the Bush Prairie HCP.
- Olympia Pocket Gopher (Thomomys mazama pugetensis).
- Oregon Spotted Frog (Rana pretiosa).
- Streaked Horned Lar (Eremophila alpestris strigata).
- Oregon Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus affinis).
Q: How will you pay for mitigation land?
A: If covered activities (projects that need City or Port approval) have the potential to result in take of covered species (e.g., habitat loss) then a permitting fee will be collected from those projects. In return those projects will have Endangered Species Act coverage under the HCP. Those fees will then be pooled and conservation land, which supports the covered species, will be protected to offset habitat losses from projects. The fees will be based on the total cost of the conservation strategy and an estimate of how many projects will need permit coverage during the 30-year permit term. HCP fees have not yet been determined but will go through public review before being adopted.