(1) The intent of this chapter is to establish minimum guidelines to assist all counties and cities in classifying and designating agricultural lands, forest lands, mineral resource lands, and critical areas.
(2) Growth management, natural resource land conservation, and critical areas protection share problems related to governmental costs and efficiency. The unwise development of natural resource lands or areas susceptible to natural hazards may lead to inefficient use of limited public resources, jeopardize environmental resource functions and values, subject persons and property to unsafe conditions, and affect the perceived quality of life. It is more costly to remedy the loss of natural resource lands or critical areas than to conserve and protect them from loss or degradation. The inherent economic, ecological, social, and cultural values of natural resource lands and critical areas should be considered in the development of strategies designed to conserve and protect these lands.
(3) In recognition of these common concerns, classification and designation of natural resource lands and critical areas is intended to assure the long-term conservation of natural resource lands and the protection of critical areas, and to preclude land uses and developments which are incompatible with natural resource lands and critical areas. When classifying and designating natural resource lands and critical areas, counties and cities should integrate regulatory and nonregulatory approaches together in a comprehensive program that relates to existing local, state, and federal efforts. An integrated approach should also consider other applicable planning requirements, including the need to identify open space corridors in RCW 36.70A.160
, and the need to include the best available science in policies and regulations protecting critical areas in RCW 36.70A.172
(4) There are qualitative differences between and among critical areas. Not all areas and ecosystems are critical for the same reasons. Some are critical because of the hazard they present to public health and safety, some because of the values they represent to the public welfare. In some cases, the risk posed to the public by use or development of a critical area can be mitigated or reduced by engineering or design; in other cases that risk cannot be effectively reduced except by avoidance of the critical area. Classification and designation of critical areas is intended to lead counties and cities to recognize the differences among these areas, and to develop appropriate regulatory and nonregulatory actions in response.
(5) There are also qualitative differences between and among natural resource lands. The three types of natural resource lands (agricultural, forest, and mineral) vary widely in their use, location, and size. One type may overlap another type. For example, designated forest resource lands may also include designated mineral resource lands. Agricultural resource lands vary based on the types of crops produced, their location on the landscape, and their relationship to sustaining agricultural industries in an identified geographic area.
(6) Counties and cities required or opting to plan under the act should consider the definitions and guidelines in this chapter when preparing development regulations that preclude uses and development incompatible with natural resource lands and critical areas (see RCW 36.70A.060
). Precluding incompatible uses and development does not mean a prohibition of all uses or development. Rather, it means governing changes in land uses, new activities, or development that could adversely affect natural resource lands or critical areas. For each type of natural resource land and critical area, counties and cities planning under the act should define classification schemes and prepare development regulations that govern changes in land uses and new activities by prohibiting clearly inappropriate actions and restricting, allowing, or conditioning other activities as appropriate.
(7) It is the intent of these guidelines that critical areas designations overlay other land uses including designated natural resource lands. For example, if both critical area and natural resource land use designations apply to a given parcel or a portion of a parcel, both or all designations must be made. Regarding natural resource lands, counties and cities should allow existing and ongoing resource management operations, that have long-term commercial significance, to continue. Counties and cities should encourage resource land managers to use the best management practices of their industry, especially where existing and ongoing resource management operations that have long-term commercial significance include designated critical areas. Future operations or expansion of existing operations should be done in consideration of protecting critical areas, and with special consideration for conservation or protection measures needed to preserve or enhance anadromous fisheries.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 36.70A.050 and 36.70A.190. 10-03-085, § 365-190-020, filed 1/19/10, effective 2/19/10. Statutory Authority: RCW 36.70A.050. 91-07-041, § 365-190-020, filed 3/15/91, effective 4/15/91.]