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The Natural Environment

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State Context

The goal for the environment in the Growth Management Act (GMA) says to “Protect the environment and enhance the state's high quality of life, including air and water quality, and the availability of water” (RCW 36.70A.020(10)). There is no specific requirement in GMA for environmental policies; however, achievement of other requirements in GMA contributes to accomplishment of this goal.

Regional Context

VISION 2040 acknowledges that certain development patterns and practices have damaged and threaten further disruption of the region’s ecosystems. It recognizes that while some impacts are irreversible, the region can curb pollution, change land use and transportation patterns, and better manage waste to protect key ecological functions and help restore the environment. VISION 2040 stresses the ecological, economic, and health benefits of preserving and restoring our natural environment.

Local Context

These policies form the basis of coordinated countywide environmental strategies for environmental stewardship, earth and habitat, water quality, air quality, and climate change. Related policies in the Development Patterns and Transportation sections address some of the major sources of air quality and climate change pollutants. Protecting and enhancing the quality of the natural environment is central to providing for the quality of life for residents of Snohomish County.

The Natural Environment Goal

Snohomish County and local jurisdictions will act as a steward of the natural environment by protecting and restoring natural systems, conserving habitat, improving air and water quality, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, and addressing potential climate change impacts. Planning for the future will embrace sustainable ways to integrate care of the environment with economic and social needs.

Env-1All jurisdictions shall protect and enhance natural ecosystems through their comprehensive plans, development regulations, capital facilities programs, and management practices. Jurisdictions should consider regional and countywide strategies and assessments, as well as best available qualitative and quantitative information, in formulating plans and regulations that are specific to their community.

Env-2The County and cities should identify, designate, and protect regional open space networks/wildlife corridors both inside and outside the Urban Growth Area. Jurisdictions should establish policies and coordinated approaches to preserve and enhance these networks/corridors across jurisdictional boundaries.

Env-3The County and cities should identify and protect, enhance, or restore wildlife corridors and important habitat areas that support designated species of local or state significance and that are critical for survival of endangered or threatened species.

Env-4The County and cities should work with neighboring jurisdictions to identify and protect significant open space areas, natural resources, and critical areas through appropriate local policies, regulations or other mechanisms such as public acquisition, easements, voluntary agreements, or by supporting the efforts of conservation organizations.

Env-5In recognition of the broad range of benefits from ecological systems, the County and cities should establish policies and strategies to restore – where appropriate and possible – the region’s freshwater and marine shorelines, watersheds, and estuaries to a natural condition for ecological function and value.

Env-6The County and cities shall collaborate with regional and state agencies on initiatives to ensure that air quality meets or is better than established state and federal standards. Any initiatives which exceed established state and federal standards shall be voluntary between jurisdictions and are not required by Env-6.

Env-7The County and cities should support the implementation of the state’s climate change initiatives and work toward developing a common framework to analyze climate change impacts when conducting environmental review under SEPA.

Env-8The County and cities should establish and/or support programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to increase energy conservation and alternative/clean energy among both public and private entities.

Env-9The County and cities should use natural systems to reduce carbon in the atmosphere by establishing programs and policies that maintain and increase forests and vegetative cover.

Env-10The County and cities should establish a planning framework in local plans and coordinate regionally to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt as necessary to likely impacts of climate change.