What are Critical Areas?

Critical Areas in Island County are environmentally sensitive natural resources that have been designated for protection and management in accordance with the requirements of our State's Growth Management Act (GMA). Protection and management of these areas is important to the preservation of ecological functions of our natural environment, as well as the protection of the public health, safety and welfare of our community.

To learn more about each of these Critical Areas, click on the images below.


Fish & Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (FWHCA)
Geologically Hazardous Areas


Frequently Flooded Areas
Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas

Critical Areas and My Development Proposal

If you are submitting a development proposal (building permit or land use permit), you need fill out and submit a Field Indicators Worksheet even if there are no known critical areas on your property. The Wetland I.D. Guide contains instructions for completing the Field Indicators Worksheet.


Follow these instructions to determine if Island County has a record of a wetland on or near your property:

  •  First, download Google Earth on your computer
    •  Click on the link above and follow the instructions to download Google Earth to your computer. Once you have the program successfully downloaded you can follow this next step:
  • Then, right click on this link and "Save As" on your desktop    

Island County's Wetland Map (in Google Earth)* - Open this map to view County wetland records, on or near your property

  • If your property is affected by a wetland or wetland buffer then complete the appropriate instructions listed in step 4.


If you are submitting a development proposal, you need to address all critical areas found on your parcel. View Island County's Critical Area Maps or Google Earth Maps on our MAPS page here to determine if other known critical areas are present on your property which include*:

  • Geologically Hazardous Areas
  • Frequently Flooded Areas
  • Critical Aquifer Recharge Area

*Marine Fish & Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (MFWHCA) are not publicly available.  Planning Staff will determine whether your proposal is within a MFWHCA.

  • Applicants for single family structures (residences), whose property is affected by wetlands or wetland buffers, must also complete the Land Use Intensity Worksheet and the Wetland Buffer Worksheet found in the back of the Wetland I.D. Guide


  • Applicants for subdivisions, non-residential or commercial uses, whose property is affected by wetlands or wetland buffers, must hire a wetlands professional and submit a Wetland Report that contains the elements of the Land Use Intensity and Wetland Buffer Worksheets found in the back of the Wetland I.D. Guide

*Island County's Critical Area maps are helpful tools, however on-site conditions may be different and Island County's regulations are based on site conditions, not mapped features.

For more information about the Permit Process and updates to the Critical Areas Ordinance, check out the following links:

Who do I contact for Help?

Wetlands and

Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas

Tess Cooper

Available 9 am - 1 pm
Monday and Wednesday for general questions


Geologically Hazardous Areas and         Steep Slopes

Bill Poss or

John Bertrand



Frequently Flooded Areas (Flood Zones)

Duty Planner


Public Benefit Rating System (PBRS)  & Rural Stewardship Plans