Native Growth Protection Areas (NGPAs) and Critical Area Protection Areas (CAPAs)

What is a Protection Area?

Native Growth Protection Area (NGPA), or Critical Area Protection Area (CAPA), is the Snohomish County Code designation for permanently protected property that contains a critical area, a critical area buffer or both. Critical areas include wetlands, lakes, streams, rivers, and geologically hazardous areas. Vegetated buffers aroundSign designating an NGPA critical areas are important in preventing loss of the functions and values that these sensitive areas provide and to protect life and property. Development permitted under the Critical Area Ordinance prior to 2007 are referred to as Native Growth Protection Areas (NGPA), while development permitted under the Critical Area Ordinance after 2007 are Critical Area Protection Areas (CAPA). These apply to both multi-residence developments and single-lot developments.

The landowner(s) of the NGPA or CAPA, are responsible for protecting and preserving these critical areas and buffers. In most cases an NGPA/CAPA is part of a developed neighborhood or condominium building and it is the responsibility of the neighborhood homeowners or Homeowners Association (HOA) to manage and protect it, but these protections can also be found on single lot residences. In general, vegetation within the NGPA/CAPA cannot be disturbed. There are a few exceptions, please refer to the FAQ below.

Landowner Technical Assistance

Snohomish County provides a variety of resources to help landowners and HOA’s manage their NGPA/CAPA. Planning and Development Services manages NGPA/CAPA regulations, permits, and reporting. This department can be reached via their email,

For unincorporated areas of the county, Surface Water Management offers a variety of technical assistance for NGPA/CAPAs. Available resources include technical assistance, restoration guidance, educational workshops, print materials, and site visits customized to the needs of your NGPA/CAPA. All resources are designed to help improve water quality and wildlife habitat, and reduce other impacts such as flooding, erosion and pollution. For questions on these topics or to schedule a site visit please email our Watershed Steward at