Agriculture & Natural Resources
The county designates and conserves resource lands in compliance with the State Growth Management Act (RCW 36.70A.170). Resource lands include agricultural, forest, and mineral lands.
Land Use Maps
Resource lands are mapped in the GMA Comprehensive Plan / Land Use Maps. Land Use Map 1 shows designated forest resource lands (local forest, commercial forest, and commercial forest-forest transition area) and designated agriculture resource lands (local commercial farmland, upland commercial farmland, and riverway commercial farmland).
Land Use Map 2 shows a mineral resource overlay for bedrock deposits and sand and gravel deposits. Policies and regulations for the use and development of these lands are located in the General Policy Plan and Snohomish County Code.
Resource Lands Notification
The following contains information about resource lands notification - real estate transfer forms required in and/or near designated agriculture and forest resource lands. In November 2015, the county mailed a special notice to property owners who own land within or near designated resource lands. The purpose of the notice is two-fold:
- To increase public awareness of the location of designated resource areas and type of resource activities that may take place.
- To inform landowners and purchasers of designated agriculture or forest resource areas that they are required to complete a Real Estate Transfer document in addition to other documents associated with the sale and purchase of land.
The notification took place in phases, beginning with property owners of land that is in or near designated agriculture resource land. The resource land notification areas vary, from 2000 feet to 500 feet from the specific type of resource land, based on the county’s adopted codes. The notices state that:
- A variety of activities may occur on designated resource lands that may not be compatible with residential development.
- Residents of or near designated resource lands may experience potential impacts from the normal resource management related activities allowed on the designated resource lands.
- Real estate transfer documents are required when buying or selling property in or near designated agriculture and forest resource lands.
Under the Growth Management Act (GMA), agricultural lands of long-term commercial significance are required to be designated and conserved. The General Policy Plan and its implementing measures seek to conserve approximately 63,000 acres of such lands in three distinct classifications: Riverway Commercial Farmland, Upland Commercial Farmland, and Local Commercial Farmland. These designated resource lands are mapped on the Permit, Planning, and Zoning Map, and the Focus on Farming Map.
Snohomish County is developing strategies for the long-term viability of farming and designated agriculture resource lands. The county has adopted a program to sustain the existence and economic health of farming. Please see the Focus on Farming website for more information on the Agriculture Initiative as well as an Executive Order establishing a Farmland Expansion and Enhancement Delivery (FEED) Program to maintain and grow Snohomish County's farmland base and limit farmland conversion. (County Executive Order 18-02)
Innovative Techniques to Preserve Designated Farmland
The county has a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program and a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program to conserve important farmlands of long-term commercial significance under GMA. The TDR program works by directing new growth away from farmlands and toward urbanizing areas where urban services are more appropriate and can be provided efficiently.
The PDR program is a grant-driven program focusing on preserving ag-land in the Tualco Valley, just south of Monroe.
Maintaining the Cultural Heritage of Farming
The county also supports programs to maintain the cultural heritage of farming, such as Snohomish County Centennial Farms, and to assist local farmers with advertising and marketing services, such as Puget Sound Fresh. PDS staff members provide support to the Agriculture Advisory Board, a group of representatives from the farming community, who meet monthly to discuss and advise county management on issues related to agriculture.
Under the GMA, mineral resource lands of long-term significance are also required to be designated and conserved. The General Policy Plan designates approximately 131,000 acres of land within a Mineral Resource Overlay (MRO). Designation in the MRO means that mineral resources are present, environmental review has been completed at a countywide level, and landowners of designated sites may apply for the permits needed for extraction and/or processing of minerals. Designation does not mean that all designated lands will become active mines or quarries. Every proposal for the extraction or processing of minerals must provide additional environmental review at the project level and obtain the required permits. Check out the Mineral Resource Lands Planning webpage for more information.
As required by the GMA, the General Policy Plan designates and conserves approximately 244,000 acres of forest land of long-term commercial significance in three distinct classifications: Commercial Forest, Commercial Forest - Forest Transition Area, and Local Commercial Forest. Designated lands include both private and state-owned forest properties, but not National Forest lands, which comprise 662,000 acres in Snohomish County. A Right to Practice Forestry Ordinance complements the regulatory program. For more information, refer to the Forest Resource Lands Planning page.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides assistance to people who own forest land. For information on their various programs and the type of assistance they provide to small forest landowners, please see the Washington State Department of Natural Resources website or email Northwest Region DNR office by phone at 360-856-3500. View the Snohomish County Forest Resource Lands Planning for more information.