A $25,000 grant will help Deschutes County revise codes concerning wildfire protection and update an inventory that protects certain animals from development pressure.
The grant from the state Department of Land Conservation and Development came as a welcome but somewhat unexpected surprise for the county commission.
The grant, which was awarded this month, is significant because it will allow the county to update a wildlife inventory that has not been adjusted in any major way in the last 25 years.
“I think we were optimistic we’d get a grant, but it wasn’t for sure,” Commissioner Phil Henderson said Wednesday.
The county applied for $75,000 from the department this fall in the hopes of getting technical assistance to study housing issues, Terrebonne sewer feasibility, wildfire mitigation and the wildlife inventory. The grant is a part of a greater effort to eventually update the county’s comprehensive plan — a document that essentially outlines how and where the county should develop.
“You can’t look at housing without looking at wildlife and without looking at wildfire (risk),” said Tanya Saltzman, a planner with the county.
Only two of the four requests, however, were funded in the grant: $10,000 for incorporating recommendations made by a committee on how to reduce losses from wildfires and $15,000 to update a list that outlines what animals should be protected and where from new development.
“Two out of four is not bad,” Henderson said.
This matters, environmental groups argue, because the inventory outlines what habitat needs to be protected, what can and can’t be allowed on lands that have these habitats and what property developers have to do to make sure the habitat is protected.
Having the most accurate information about sensitive habitats and the species that live on them is important in considering land use decisions. Groups like Central Oregon LandWatch say having an old inventory has contributed to a larger legacy of development encroaching on rural lands.
In January, the county will begin developing a scope of work for the next 18 months and consider hiring a consultant.