About Significant Natural Resources
Significant Natural Resources provide benefits to our community. These resources include:
- Land along waterways
- Water areas
- Fish and wildlife habitats
- Other areas significant because of their unique features
These areas are mapped in Community Plans for the urban area and in the Rural/Natural Resource Plan for the rural area. Regulation of development in areas with Significant Natural Resources in both the urban and rural areas is governed by Community Development Code Section 422.
Legal challenges to County regulations
Since 2018, the County’s regulations have been under legal scrutiny. Our regulations have been challenged with the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), who have directed further work for the County. Most recently, a petition was filed with the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) charging that since some of our regulations were not clear and objective, that we were out of compliance with statewide Planning Goal 5. The petition requested an enforcement order to direct us to change our regulations and a stay on development within wildlife habitat areas. The petition requested that a stay be placed on certain development within Wildlife Habitat areas until new standards were adopted.
LCDC agreed that the County was out of compliance with Goal 5 and issued an enforcement order directing the us to amend our natural resource regulations by Oct. 1, 2024. This order also included a stay on certain development. Effective May 4, 2023, we cannot approve new land division and development applications for residential projects that would impact areas mapped as Wildlife Habitat. The stay will not impact non-residential projects. Effective Nov. 6, the stay will only apply to areas within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). See FAQs.
The stay will be in place until new regulations become effective. New regulations are expected to be adopted by Oct. 1, 2024.
SNR: A Focused Look at Fish and Wildlife Habitat
Based on the County’s 2020 Program Review and Assessment and direction from LUBA, in 2022 the County began a limited Goal 5 program update. The SNR: A Focused Look at Fish and Wildlife Habitat will update our natural resources inventory and refine our regulations, ensuring we follow all the required procedures and develop clear and objective requirements.
Sign up to receive updates on the SNR: A Focused Look at Fish and Wildlife Habitat project.
Significant Natural Resources Program Review and Assessment
All this work is based on a foundation developed as part of the SNR Program Review and Assessment. We did this assessment in response to community members' concerns regarding how our development review process protected Significant Natural Resources.
The assessment includes:
- Review of state regulations and LUBA decisions about significant natural resources
- Historical review of our Goal 5 natural resource inventory, program and regulations
- Review of land use decisions involving significant natural resources
- Review of our tree removal and permit requirements
- Public engagement including Community Participation Organizations (CPOs), developers and others
- Results from a five-week open house including key findings, a timeline and survey
- Options and recommendations for changes to the County natural resource requirements. These are the result of analysis and community response
- Statewide Planning Goal 5: Natural Resources, Scenic and Historic Areas, and Open Spaces
- SNR Review and Assessment Technical Appendices
- SNR Review and Assessment Public Input and Engagement Report
- Washington County Comprehensive Framework Plan for the Urban Area
- Community Plans
- Rural/Natural Resource Plan
- Rural/Natural Resource Plan Maps