Work task 18 of the Wasco County 2040 Comprehensive Plan Update is to update our overlay zones, called environmental protection districts, with updated wildlife information from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
Staff has prepared an FAQ to answer some of the questions about this process.
Environmental Protection District (EPD) 8, the Sensitive Wildlife, protects big game habitat in Wasco County. Protections are applied at the time of development application and can include requirements such as clustering development to keep away from the migratory path or habitat of deer and elk.
EPD 8 was developed and implemented in Wasco County since the 1983 Comprehensive Plan adoption. There have been some revisions to the map and ordinance language since that time.
During the 2017 visioning phase of Wasco County 2040, ODFW alerted Wasco County Planning that EPD 8 was inconsistent with their data on big game habitat. ODFW relies on their map when consulting with applicants and property owners on most development projects in Wasco County. The result of the inconsistency has been to create confusion among applicants and property owners who believe they are not in Big Game Winter Range based on Wasco County’s EPD-8, but find after consultation or comment from ODFW that they are.
ODFW has prepared a revision to EPD 8 to make Wasco County’s map consistent with theirs and clarify to all residents and property owners of wildlife protections. During this process of revision, Planning staff has worked with ODFW towards streamlining the regulation to lessen the burden on property owners while still protecting the wildlife resources.
What the updates will not do:
- Change the underlying zone
- Prohibit development outright
What the updates may do:
- Make the map consistent with ODFW’s map
- Make the map consistent with Goal 5 requirements
- Make it clear which properties will be of interest to ODFW during a subject to standards or conditional use review
- Clarify and streamline existing language
- Remove voluntary siting standards and unnecessary regulation
- Ensure for accurate implementation of protections
The first map shows the current EPD 8. It currently has multiple categories of protection. The light yellowish and tan colors typically fall within voluntary standards which are being proposed to be removed.
The map below shows the proposed refined based on ODFW data. The revision removes some lands, while adding lands to the east and south of Wasco County. It’s important to reiterate that these lands, when applying for a conditional use permit, are currently subject to restrictions from ODFW because ODFW uses their data and map. You can view ODFW’s map tool here: https://dfw.state.or.us/maps/compass/ Select ODFW Deer Winter Range (Eastern OR) and ODFW Elk Winter Range (Eastern OR) from the Crucial Habitat Assessment: Terrestrial Crucial Habitat layer.
The ODFW data and map are being utilized to refine the Wasco County map.
To view a pdf of the proposed EPD 8 see this: ProposedEPD8
So while the change looks big, the restrictions to property owners should be fewer and generally target large uses that are inconsistent with the common and everyday development occurring in these zones, like agriculture. The types of development that would be reviewed include things like utility facilities, wineries, commercial energy projects, and land divisions.
The end result is that when applying for new development with Type II (Subject to Standards) and Type III (Conditional) uses, the applicant will work with ODFW to develop any necessary mitigation strategies to keep development from adversely impact wildlife and wildlife habitat. This may mean moving the building site closer to the roadway, or generally working to cluster development in such a way that allows for continued habitat and migration paths.
EPD-12, Sensitive Birds, protects ODFW identified sensitive birds and their habitat. Bird species include peregrine falcons, burrowing owls, and golden eagles. A significant amount of research has been compiled about nesting sites and habitat over the last several years, some in response to wind turbine facilities. As a result, ODFW has requested Wasco County update its EPD-12.
EPD 12 is different than EPD 8 in a couple of critical ways:
- The map is confidential, so we can only show to property owners at the time of application
- The map consists of buffers around habitat sites, so typically does not involve the whole property but merely a portion
- The EPD regulations only apply to the buffered area
- Forest and farm practices as defined by State law are not subject to the EPD regulations
- All applications for development within the buffer area must submit a sensitive resource plan that is reviewed by ODFW
- For development within the buffer, ODFW may require restrictions on timing or characteristics of development to limit disturbance
The revision to this map will add some properties and also remove some properties. ODFW has also recommended an implementation strategy to revisit the map every five years or when new data becomes available.