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By March 14—Your Voice is Needed to Save Rural Lands

[Editor’s Note:  This article is a shortened version of the authors’ article published online on March 1 in The Echo, Black Hills Audubon Society’s newsletter.  Of the many docket items being considered by Thurston’s Board of County Commissioners for 2024, BHAS’s conservation committee is most concerned about these four: Beaver Creek Farm, Black Lake Quarry, Port of Tacoma, and UP Castle. With a few simple clicks you can help keep these projects from even getting started.]

…Four landowners are requesting to change from Rural Residential/Resource (RRR) to Rural Resource Industrial (RRI) zoning.   Three projects would enable large warehouses to be built within 50 to 300 feet of valuable habitats and waterways, and in one case “do more intensive” industrial work.  UP Castle would enable warehousing along much of I-5, or throughout the county, depending on which amendment proposal is approved.  None of these projects is consistent with current development code based on the Thurston County Comprehensive Plan as it exists today.

You have the opportunity to quickly comment on each of the proposed docket projects by using the County’s online comment form to urge REMOVAL of the project from being considered or by putting the project ON HOLD until after the comprehensive plan update is complete.

While many of the proposed docket items deserve your comment, we urge you to act on these four docket items in particular. Below are links to the Thurston County website and some suggested talking points to help you write comments.

How to comment

** Online site is open: deadline for public comment is 5:00 pm Friday, March 14 **

Thurston County has created a website for the docketing process, very brief summaries of the projects, and public comment.

  1. Click this link: 
  1. Scroll down to the Public Participation Opportunity / Comprehensive Plan Docket Comment Form here: 

  1. Fill out the commenter info and then put a check by the projects you want to comment on. These are the four projects that Black Hills Audubon Society is most concerned about right now:

  1. Click NEXT and submit your short comments and/or attach your comments for each selected project on the next page. Black Hills Audubon Society’s suggested comments for you to choose from are listed in the boxes below these instructions. 
  1. SUBMIT your comments. 

Black Hills Audubon Society’s short list of concerns about these four projects:

Beaver Creek: Land Use Amendment and Associated Rezone

  • REMOVE this project from the docket.
  • Thurston County’s 2045 Comprehensive Plan Update sets goals and policies for the next 20 years around climate, environment, and land use. It will not be finished until late 2024 or early 2025.. No rezoning decisions should be made until this is complete.
  • The rezone would endanger listed species – Oregon Spotted Frog- and the Coho Salmon –
  • which spawn in Beaver Creek by reducing water quality. The stormwater runoff from industrial plants and warehouse parking lots contains industrial contaminants harmful to these species.
  • The rezone will require new infrastructure: modern industrial facilities, including highly automated warehouses, will add significant and inflexible demand for electricity, which is likely to result in higher electricity rates for Thurston County residents.
  • The rezone will replace carbon-sequestering and water-filtering grasslands and wetlands with impervious surfaces, exacerbating drought in the dry season in the wet season and causing runoff from pollutants from asphalt.
  • The rezone’s truck traffic will increase Green House Gas (GHG) emissions at a time when Thurston County’s climate commitment requires reducing these emissions 45% by 2030.
  • The rezone endangers Beaver Creek, which is one of the only natural riparian corridors in this area of western Washington. It is bordered by land owned by the state, federal government and county parks. These lands conserve unique and rare glacial prairies between huge public lands –JBLM and Capitol Forest–with links to the Pacific Coast and the Olympics.
  • As an alternative to industrial development, a protected Beaver Creek aquatic corridor is a natural complement to the larger Connectivity Project in Thurston County currently in analysis. It will allow passage of wildlife under I-5 and between the Olympics and the Cascades. The feasibility study for this project will be out later this year.
  • The rezone is unnecessary. The county’s Industrial Land Study and the Thurston Regional Planning Council’s Buildable Lands Study both say there is enough industrially zoned land in the county right now. Per the Growth Management Act (GMA) rules no more is needed.  See:

Black Lake Quarry: Land Use Amendment and Associated Rezone

  • REMOVE this project from the docket.
  •  Rezoning the Black Lake Quarry (BLQ) parcels and subsequent land development carries substantial risk of negatively impacting the upper reaches of the Black River, its habitat for Coho Salmon and federally-listed Oregon Spotted Frog, and local residential groundwater supplies. The BLQ property features artificially created open ponds and highly-permeable soils upslope from the Black River channel. The shortest distance from the BLQ property and the Black River is only 500 feet.
  • Request that Thurston County honor their earlier commitment to protect the ecologically important Black River National Wildlife Refuge.  In 2009, Thurston County joined BHAS in action which prevented the development of an asphalt and concrete plant in this same location, successfully protecting this ecologically important area. The Black River Preserve “… supports runs of chum, chinook and coho salmon as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout and its banks have the most extensive riparian environments in western Washington.”
  • See:

Port of Tacoma: Land Use Amendment and Associated Rezone

  • REMOVE the Port of Tacoma application from the docket once and for all.
  • This is the fourth attempt to industrialize the Port of Tacoma property next to West Rocky Prairie. Earlier attempts were made in 2006, 2008 and 2019. In the 2019 campaign, 6,000 citizens signed a petition expressing opposition to any warehouse development on the Port of Tacoma property.
  • The federally endangered Oregon Spotted Frog lives close to the border of the Port of Tacoma property and requires sufficient water resources of high quality to survive.  The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has completed ten years of on-going study on the frogs and the water levels necessary to maintain the health of this population. Both the frogs and important climate research could be compromised if a warehouse or other industry were to be established so close to the West Rocky Prairie State Wildlife Preserve.
  • See

UP Castle: Land Use Amendment and Associated Rezone

  • REMOVE this project from the docket.
  • The 3.3-acre property does not fit within current code requirements that Rural Resource Industrial zoning be within 0.5 mile of I-5 and on a major arterial road from an I-5 interchange.
  • Both land use amendment proposals, whether from county staff or the proponents, would expand industrial zoning to thousands of acres throughout the county. The county staff’s proposal would allow industrial zoning anywhere within 0.5 mile of I-5, not just at interchanges. The proponents’ proposal would allow industrial zoning in federal rural opportunity zones scattered throughout the county.
  • Both amendment proposals are big decisions that should not be attached to a docket item. Instead they should go through normal processes for making county policies – like the Comprehensive Plan Update.
  • See

 For decades Sue Danver has actively advocated for our local environment through the Black Hills Audubon Society. Her best jobs were as a seasonal National Park Service interpreter in Yellowstone and the North Cascades.

Betsy Norton is relatively new to environmental advocacy, but is a lifelong supporter of all species.  Birding with the Black Hills Audubon Society inspires her to act to protect their habitat and ours.

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