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Regulations and Policies Related to Biodiversity in King County

Regulations and Policies Related to Biodiversity in King County

The King County Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan) is the guiding policy document for all land use and development regulations in unincorporated King County. It also provides policies for regional services including transit, sewers, parks, trails and open space. Biodiversity is addressed in its own section as well as throughout the Environment Chapter (Chapter 5).

The goal of the Critical Areas, Stormwater, and Clearing and Grading Ordinances is to protect the existing functions and values of critical areas and ensure public safety where there are identified hazard areas. The ordinance package identifies two classes of critical areas: environmentally sensitive critical areas and public safety critical areas. Environmentally sensitive critical areas include rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, and wildlife habitat. Public safety critical areas are known as hazard areas and include areas at high risk for erosion, landslides, earthquakes, or flooding, as well as coal mine hazard areas. The ordinance applies throughout unincorporated King County. Updates to the ordinance are mandated by the State of Washington’s Growth Management Act.

For a list of species protected in the Comp Plan and CAO as Species of Local Importance, scroll down on this page.

Federal Laws

Endangered Species Act

The Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973. It prohibits the importation, exportation, taking, and commercialization of fish, wildlife, and plants listed as threatened or endangered species. The Act also implements the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Here is the entire ESA in PDF format.

Other Federal Laws

In addition to the ESA, many other Federal Laws are in place to protect wildlife. Federal Laws are an additional protection for many of our migratory birds and other wildlife.

Below is a summary of some federal wildlife regulations:

  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-712) makes it unlawful to pursue, hunt, kill, capture, possess, buy, sell, purchase, or barter any migratory bird, including the feathers or other parts, nests, eggs, or migratory bird products.       
    • Birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (Adobe Acrobat file)
  • Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668C) makes it illegal to import, export, or take bald or golden eagles, or to sell, purchase, or barter their parts, or products made from them, including their nests or eggs.
  • Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1361-1407) establishes a moratorium on the taking and importation of marine mammals, including parts and products.
  • Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42; 16 U.S.C. 3371-3378) provides authority to the Secretary of the Interior to, among other things, ensure the humane treatment of wildlife shipped to the United States, and the act provides an important tool in the effort to gain control of smuggling and trade in illegally taken fish and wildlife.
  • Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 (16 U.S.C. 4901) promotes the conservation of exotic birds.

For more information:


Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University took a look at Trends in prosecution in wildlife laws. They found a decline in enforcement of the federal laws designed to protect migratory birds, endangered species, marine mammals and other kinds of wildlife since the early 2000s. The data were obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC)."

Washington State Laws

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Title 77: Fish and Wildlife is the primary source of fish and wildlife laws specific to Washington State. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Enforcement Program is primarily responsible for enforcing the Fish and Wildlife Code.

List of Species Protected in the King County Comprehensive Plan and CAO

This list is current as of June 1, 2009, and represents species protected in King County's Comprehensive Plan via the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). Asterisks (*) indicate which species have specified development standards in the CAO. Federal and State status codes are defined at the bottom of the list. These are grouped by animal type and then alphabetized by common name.

** Our list of Species is currently being updated for the 2024 update to the King County Comprehensive Plan. The old list has been removed in the interim.**

Status Codes:

  • FE: Federal Endangered
  • FT: Federal Threatened
  • FC: Federal Candidate
  • FCo: Federal Species of Concern
  • SE: State Endangered, defined in WAC 232-12-297, Section 2.4, to include "any wildlife species native to the state of Washington that is seriously threatened with extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the state."
  • ST: State Threatened, defined in WAC 232-12-297, Section 2.5, to include "any wildlife species native to the state of Washington that is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout a significant portion of its range within the state without cooperative management or removal of threats."
  • SS: State Sensitive, defined in WAC 232-12-297, Section 2.6, to include "any wildlife species native to the state of Washington that is vulnerable or declining and is likely to become endangered or threatened throughout a significant portion of its range within the state without cooperative management or removal of threats."
  • SC: State Candidate, defined in WDFW Policy M-6001 to include fish and wildlife species that the Department will review for possible listing as State Endangered, Threatened, or Sensitive. A species will be considered for designation as a State Candidate if sufficient evidence suggests that its status may meet the listing criteria defined for State Endangered, Threatened, or Sensitive.