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Island County > Planning > Fish and Wildlife

What are Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas?



Endangered Species Act (ESA) Listed Species and Habitat

Listed species are those officially designated by the State Department of Fish and Wildlife and/or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) as endangered, threatened, sensitive, or candidate.

Habitats and Species of Local Importance

Habitats and species of local importance include habitats that support both vulnerable and recreationally important species.​

Kelp and Eelgrass Beds, Pacific Herring Spawning Areas

Eelgrass beds may be found along much of the shoreline in Island County especially in the many bays and harbors such as Holmes Harbor, Penn Cove, Dugualla Bay, Livingston Bay, and Crescent Harbor. Kelp forests and eelgrass beds provide forage, spawning and refuge areas for a number of marine species, including waterfowl, crab, snails, shrimp, and the Pacific Herring, an important local forage fish. Preservation of kelp and eelgrass beds also serves to protect local beaches from erosion by softening the force of waves against the shoreline.

Surf Smelt and Sand Lance Spawning Areas

The nearshore environment in Island County provides important migratory corridors and habitat for forage fish spawning. Surf smelt and sand lance are schooling plankton feeder fish that are preyed on by a variety of animal species in the marine food web. Both surf smelt and the sand lance spawn along marine shoreline areas, depositing their eggs on protected upper intertidal sand or sandy-gravel beaches. Juvenile fish rear in nearby bays and nearshore areas.

Lakes & Streams

Lakes and streams are generally characterized by surface water that has produced a defined channel or bed. Lakes and streams essentially function as a drainage system that transports and stores water, sediment, and dissolved nutrients across the surface. They also provide important habitat for many fish and wildlife species. A variety of factors can affect the function and characteristics of a lake or stream system, including: precipitation patterns, geology, topography, and human activities such as dams, dikes, development, and removal of riparian vegetation.

Habitat Conservation Areas (HCAs) are protected to:

  • ensure the continued existence and enhancement of fish and wildlife populations by protecting and conserving valuable fish and wildlife habitat;

  • encourage the preservation of marine shorelines and natural stream functions that support fish and wildlife populations;
  • preserve critical wildlife habitats so that isolated populations of species are not created and habitat fragmentation is avoided, especially along riparian corridors;

  • and maintain the natural geographic distribution of fish and wildlife habitat


For more information regarding Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas, check out the following Development Information Bulletins (DIB's):

  •  DIB 509:  Streams
  •  DIB 510:  Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas
  •  DIB 513:  Development on Shorelines (lakes)
  •  DIB 514:  Special Shoreline Setbacks and Buffers
  •  DIB 522:  Washington Natural Heritage Program Sites
  •  DIB 523:  Habitats of Local Importance


Is your property located in a Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Area?  To find out, click on this link to the Getting Started with Critical Areas page to view our Critical Area Maps.