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Sparsely Populated Rural County Must Comply With Growth Law

Ferry County in far northeast Washington has lost another battle in a long legal war against the state's Growth Management Act. Judges of the Washington State Court of Appeals were sympathetic to Ferry County's plight in trying to adhere to wildlife protection mandates of the Growth Management Act, but they ruled, nonetheless, that county overseers came up short - again.

The rural, sparsely populated county has had an ongoing conflict with the state since at least 1997 with one showdown after another over threatened species and habitat protections.

County commissioners argue they have jurisdiction over less than 20 percent of the county's land area. Roughly the southern half of the county is owned by the Colville Indian tribe, and the Colville National Forest takes up much of the northern half. There's just not much land left for commercial or development use.

Even so, county government is responsible for identifying local species and habitats as part of its critical areas ordinance.

The Growth Management Act has been a burr under the saddles of most of Washington's rural counties, since it was aimed at congested Puget Sound area counties, and the appeals judges conceded it's loaded with - as they put it - awkward sentences and murky language.

Even though eastern and western Washington may have a difficult marriage, as they put it, we remain one state subject to the same law. So it's back to the drawing board for Ferry County - again.

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