House passes Chandler’s bill to ensure legislative review on habitat conservation plans

The House of Representatives today passed legislation that would provide legislative review before certain state agencies make agreements regarding habitat conservation plans with the federal government. It was approved 91-6.

Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, said he sponsored the proposal to ensure the Legislature would be involved from the beginning on the plans, instead of at the end.

House Bill 1009 would require certain state agencies to consult with the Legislature prior to undertaking an application to the federal government for a new, ongoing or amended habitat conservation plan. Habitat conservation plans last for 50 years and often have a great impact on private and public lands. Chandler noted Skamania County is already more than 90 percent public lands.

“The decisions made on conservation plans have long-term and multi-generational impacts. We must ensure private lands are protected so there is an adequate tax base to support education and other services for the people who live in counties that have such a large amount of public land,” Chandler said. “The discussions about habitat conservation plans have caused a great deal of concern, and allowing the Legislature to review them before the plans are approved adds another layer of public involvement and transparency in government.”

Opponents of the legislation, state agencies affected, claim it will disrupt years-long process with the federal government. Chandler noted one of these agencies, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, has requested legislation to transfer regulatory authority for hydraulics project approvals, also requiring years-long negotiations with the federal government, to another state agency, which could also cause a great deal of disruption in ongoing planning.

“Whenever the state talks about taking land out of public use, people have immediate concerns they will be stripped of their rights as property owners, taxpayers and neighbors,” Chandler said. “I want to make sure we fully vet these conservation plans and give the public ample opportunity to provide comment early on and the ability to hold state government accountable.”

The legislation now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

Contact: Sarah Lamb, Public Information Officer, (360) 786-7720

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov