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Skip Navigation LinksDepartment of Commerce / Services & Assistance / Local Government / Growth Management Services / Growth Management Planning Topics / Critical Areas and Best Available Science / Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation

 Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas


The GMA requires cities and counties across the state to address land use issues that directly and indirectly impact fish and wildlife habitat. Fish and wildlife habitat conservation is the management of land for maintaining species in suitable habitats within their natural geographic distribution so that isolated subpopulations are not created. This does not mean that all individuals of all species must be maintained at all times, but it does mean cooperative and coordinated land use planning is critically important among counties and cities in a region. In some cases, intergovernmental cooperation and coordination may show that it is sufficient to ensure that a species will usually be found in counties and cities in a region. The designation of fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas should include:

  • Areas with which endangered, threatened, and sensitive species have a primary association.
  • Habitats and species of local importance. 
  • Commercial and recreational shellfish areas. 
  • Kelp and eelgrass beds.
  • Mudflats and marshes.
  • Herring, surf smelt and sand lance spawning areas. 
  • Naturally occurring ponds under 20 acres and their submerged aquatic beds that provide fish or wildlife habitat. 
  • Waters of the state. 
  • Lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers planted with game fish by a governmental or tribal entity.
  • State natural area preserves and natural resource conservation areas
  • Areas critical for habitat connectivity.


Department of Fish and Wildlife Habitat site - Link for information on Priority Habitats & Species (PHS)

The following are some of the more significant policy areas associated with protection of critical habitat and examples of how these areas have been addressed.

  • Designation
  • Development of HCP Required 
  • Stream typing and classification 
  • Treatment of Piped Watercourses
  • Buffers
  • Nearshore Habitat Protection
  • Species of Local Importance
  • Regulation of Ditches and Drainage Structures

Priority Habitats & Species

Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife : List of Publications available concerning the Agency's Priority Habitats and Species  -

Landscape Planning for Washington's Wildlife: Managing for Biodiversity in Developing Areas (A PHS Guidance Document  - 

WDFW has posted a new science paper, Protection of Marine Riparian Functions in Puget Sound, Washington, on the Aquatic Habitat Guidelines (AHG) web site, white papers section. This document was developed to provide shoreline planners and managers with a summary of current science and management recommendations to inform protection of ecological functions of marine riparian areas. It was prepared by Washington SeaGrant for WDFW, with Ecology’s participation and AHG review. Please share within your agency and with your constituents as appropriate.

Department of Fish and Wildlife Planner Newsletter: Newsletters specifically developed for Washington's planning professionals.

Department of Fish and Wildlife Growth Management Act: Documents outline the WDFW response to the Growth Management Act (GMA) regarding the protection of fish and wildlife habitat.

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