Fish & Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (FWHCA) are the most prevalent type of critical area in Stevenson based primarily on the number of small streams and the riparian habitat areas adjacent to them. These areas are valuable resources for Stevenson’s people as well as our wildlife. While the sights and sounds of a babbling brook help us ease a work-stressed minds, the role they play for our wildlife has an even greater impact. In Washington, approximately 90% of land-based vertebrate species prefer, or are dependent upon, riparian habitat for essential life.

Urbanization and human use of these areas often fragments habitats and makes it difficult for local wildlife populations or entire species to survive. These issues have become a worldwide concern; from Australia to England, from Tanzania to Carson, regulatory and corrective construction projects are being promoted to prevent and restore streams and fragmented habitats.

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Stevenson’s regulations promote the use of protective buffers as a response to similar concerns. The 2003 FWHCA regulations protected riparian habitats through application of a 100’ buffer from the largest streams and smaller buffers (down to a 25’ minimum) for smaller waterways. By 2008, the best available science had determined that larger buffers were necessary to protect riparian habitats, and a new range of protective buffers was established between 50’ and 150’. Science-based recommendations for appropriate mitigation, restoration and monitoring also changed during that time, and the current regulations have much more prescriptive requirements for proposals within the buffers.

2018 Amendment Process

When the Planning Commission initiated the review of the regulations protecting Fish & Wildlife Habitat Conservation areas, they provided staff with the following guidance:

  • Continue striving to achieve the currently stated purpose of the City’s Fish & Wildlife Habitat Conservation Area regulations (“to protect environmentally distinct, fragile, and valuable fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas”),
  • Incorporate greater flexibility into the existing regulation.
  • “Better is good”, amend the regulations as possible based on Best Available Science, but accept that perfect may not be achievable during this review.

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