Throughout Washington State, local governments are responsible for protecting “critical areas,” which include wetlands, sources of drinking water, fish and wildlife habitat, flood plains, and geologically hazardous areas (e.g. steep slopes). City and county governments spend time, energy, and money to create and enforce “critical areas ordinances” to protect these sensitive environmental places. These local jurisdictions were having a hard time answering the question: “Are our critical areas ordinances actually working?” In response to this need, the WA State Department of Commerce (Commerce) partnered up with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) to develop guidance for monitoring and adaptively managing critical areas ordinances.
In late 2017, Commerce hired Triangle Associates to hold six workshops around the state to teach urban planners, biologists, wetland scientists, and others about critical areas monitoring and adaptive management. These workshops were also an opportunity to spotlight some best practices from around the state that Commerce could include in its guidance. Triangle designed all-day workshops that allowed participants to learn about critical areas ordinances, share their expertise with Commerce representatives, and exchange ideas with their colleagues. Meetings were held in Moses Lake, Port Angeles, Olympia, Vancouver, Seattle, and Mt. Vernon to facilitate these interactive and lively workshops. Attendance in these workshops increased throughout the spring as participants recommended these sessions to their colleagues around the state.
In July, the Department of Commerce released its full guidance on critical area ordinances, including information and case studies to help local governments understand if their ordinances and regulations are in fact protecting the critical areas as intended. Click here to view the full handbook.