S-3907.1  _______________________________________________


                    SUBSTITUTE SENATE BILL 6575



State of Washington   57th Legislature        2002 Regular Session


By Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Parks & Shorelines (originally sponsored by Senator Hargrove)


READ FIRST TIME 02/07/2002.

Concerning the designation of certain lands as natural area preserves or natural resource conservation areas.

    AN ACT Relating to natural area preserves; and amending RCW 79.70.030, 79.70.060, and 79.70.080.




    Sec. 1.  RCW 79.70.030 and 1994 c 264 s 61 are each amended to read as follows:

    In order to set aside, preserve, and protect natural areas within the state, the department is authorized, in addition to any other powers, to:

    (1) Establish ((by rule and regulation)) the criteria for selection, acquisition, management, protection, and use of such natural areas, including:

    (a) Limiting public access to natural area preserves consistent with the purposes of this chapter.  Where appropriate, and on a case-by-case basis, a buffer zone with an increased low level of public access may be created around the environmentally sensitive areas;

    (b) Developing a management plan for each designated natural area preserve.  The plan must identify the significant resources to be conserved consistent with the purposes of this chapter and identify the areas with potential for low-impact public and environmental educational uses.  The plan must specify the types of management activities and public uses that are permitted, consistent with the purposes of this chapter.  The department must make the plans available for review and comment by the public, and state, tribal, and local agencies, prior to final approval;

    (2) Cooperate or contract with any federal, state, or local governmental agency, private organizations, or individuals in carrying out the purpose of this chapter;

    (3) Consistent with the plan, acquire by gift, devise, purchase, grant, dedication, or means other than eminent domain, the fee or any lesser right or interest in real property which shall be held and managed as a natural area;

    (4) Acquire by gift, devise, grant, or donation any personal property to be used in the acquisition and/or management of natural areas;

    (5) Inventory existing public, state, and private lands in cooperation with the council to assess possible natural areas to be preserved within the state;

    (6) Maintain a natural heritage program to provide assistance in the selection and nomination of areas containing natural heritage resources for registration or dedication.  The program shall maintain a classification of natural heritage resources, an inventory of their locations, and a data bank for such information.  The department of natural resources shall cooperate with the department of fish and wildlife in the selection and nomination of areas from the data bank that relate to critical wildlife habitats.  Information from the data bank shall be made available to public and private agencies and individuals for environmental assessment and proprietary land management purposes.  Usage of the classification, inventory, or data bank of natural heritage resources for any purpose inconsistent with the natural heritage program is not authorized;

    (7) Prepare a natural heritage plan which shall govern the natural heritage program in the conduct of activities to create and manage a system of natural areas ((which)) that includes natural resource conservation areas, and may include areas designated under the research natural area program on federal lands in the state;

    (a) The plan shall list the natural heritage resources to be considered for registration and shall provide criteria for the selection and approval of natural areas under this chapter;

    (b) The department shall provide opportunities for input, comment, and review to the public, other public agencies, and private groups with special interests in natural heritage resources during preparation of the plan;

    (c) Upon approval by the council and adoption by the department, the plan shall be updated and submitted biennially to the appropriate committees of the legislature for their information and review.  The plan shall take effect ninety days after the adjournment of the legislative session in which it is submitted unless the reviewing committees suggest changes or reject the plan; and

    (8) Maintain a state register of natural areas containing significant natural heritage resources to be called the Washington register of natural area preserves.  Selection of natural areas for registration shall be in accordance with criteria listed in the natural heritage plan and accomplished through voluntary agreement between the owner of the natural area and the department.  No privately owned lands may be proposed to the council for registration without prior notice to the owner or registered without voluntary consent of the owner.  No state or local governmental agency may require such consent as a condition of any permit or approval of or settlement of any civil or criminal proceeding or to penalize any landowner in any way for failure to give, or for withdrawal of, such consent.

    (a) The department shall adopt rules and regulations as authorized by RCW 43.30.310 and 79.70.030(1) and chapter 34.05 RCW relating to voluntary natural area registration.

    (b) After approval by the council, the department may place sites onto the register or remove sites from the register.

    (c) The responsibility for management of registered natural area preserves shall be with the preserve owner.  A voluntary management agreement may be developed between the department and the owners of the sites on the register.

    (d) Any public agency may register lands under provisions of this chapter.


    Sec. 2.  RCW 79.70.060 and 1981 c 189 s 2 are each amended to read as follows:

    The legislature finds:

    (1) That it is necessary to establish a process and means for public and private sector cooperation in the development of a system of natural areas.  Private and public landowners should be encouraged to participate in a program of natural area establishment which will benefit all citizens of the state;

    (2) That there is a need for a systematic and accessible means for providing information concerning the locations of the state's natural heritage resources; and

    (3) That the natural heritage advisory council should utilize a specific framework for natural heritage resource conservation decision making through a classification, inventory, priority establishment, acquisition, and management process known as the natural heritage program.  Future natural areas should avoid unnecessary duplication of already protected natural heritage resources including those which may already be protected in existing publicly owned or privately dedicated lands such as nature preserves, natural areas, natural resource conservation areas, parks, or wilderness.


    Sec. 3.  RCW 79.70.080 and 1994 c 264 s 63 are each amended to read as follows:

    (1) The council shall:

    (a) Meet at least annually and more frequently at the request of the chairperson;

    (b) Recommend policy for the natural heritage program through the review and approval of the natural heritage plan;

    (c) Advise the department, the department of fish and wildlife, the state parks and recreation commission, and other state agencies managing state-owned land or natural resources regarding areas under their respective jurisdictions which are appropriate for natural area registration or dedication;

    (d) Advise the department of rules and regulations that the council considers necessary in carrying out this chapter; ((and))

    (e) Review and approve area nominations by the department or other agencies for registration and review and comment on legal documents for the voluntary dedication of such areas;

    (f) Recommend whether new areas proposed for protection be established as natural area preserves, natural resource conservation areas, a combination of both, or by some other protected status; and

    (g) Review and comment on management plans proposed for individual natural area preserves.

    (2) From time to time, the council shall identify areas from the natural heritage data bank which qualify for registration.  Priority shall be based on the natural heritage plan and shall generally be given to those resources which are rarest, most threatened, or under-represented in the heritage conservation system on a statewide basis.  After qualifying areas have been identified, the department shall advise the owners of such areas of the opportunities for acquisition or voluntary registration or dedication.


                            --- END ---