WDFW to Appeal Wenatchee Ruling on Foothills Development

Photo: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Facebook

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) plans to appeal a decision by the City of Wenatchee that denies the department’s bid to require mitigation for impacts to mule deer from a 13-acre subdivision under development in the Wenatchee Foothills.

The department intends to file its appeal in Chelan County Superior Court next week, said Jim Brown, WDFW regional director.

Brown said WDFW is concerned about the loss of prime mule deer habitat and the potential for human-wildlife conflicts resulting from the Black Rock Terrace development, located near Skyline Drive within Wenatchee’s city limits.

He noted that the land under development for a subdivision is designated by the state as priority mule deer habitat and supports the largest herd of wintering mule deer in Chelan County.

“We’re not trying to stop the project, but we do ask that the developer help to mitigate potential conflicts with deer and for lost wildlife habitat,” Brown said. “At minimum, we would expect conflicts to include an increase in collisions with deer and complaints about damage to landscaping around homes from deer eating ornamental plants.”

Mitigation measures sought by WDFW include:

  • Clustering development in order to maintain migration corridors for mule deer;
  • Adding signage cautioning drivers to watch for deer;
  • Installing deer fencing around the development to minimize human-deer interactions;
  • Shielding lights to reduce glare and light;
  • Using cattle guards across ungated driveways to keep deer out of yards;
  • Installing native shrub-steppe vegetation to provide a functional strip of habitat;
  • Requiring that pets be leashed when they’re outside fenced yards;
  • and Minimizing disturbance of vegetation on the property and controlling invasive and nox

A city hearing examiner denied WDFW’s mitigation request at a hearing Dec. 14, 2018, and again on reconsideration Jan. 7, 2019.

Brown said WDFW designates the area scheduled for development as priority habitat for mule deer, and the City of Wenatchee’s comprehensive plan calls for “appropriate mitigation and enhancement measures” for development in habitat conservation areas.

The city acknowledged WDFW’s priority habitat designation in its Mitigated Determination of Non-significance environmental statement for the Black Rock project, but Brown said the only mitigation it required was installation of a six-foot fence.

Brown said the city relied on the applicant’s mitigation plan, which relied on an outdated 2010 report to characterize the project site as a “low” priority area for mule-deer habitat. More recent information that reflects the significant impact of recent wildfires on that area, he said.

“The project’s consultant has since said the site is frequently used by mule deer for winter foraging,” he said. “We simply want to work with the city to reduce the impacts of the project on mule deer and area residents before the development moves forward.”

Press release provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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