New SEPA Checklist Guidance for Impacts to Agricultural Lands
August 2010

This new guidance responds to the intent of a bill introduced in 2010-SB 6210 related to the preservation and conservation of agricultural resource lands. The proposed legislation addressed the need for improving the evaluation and consideration of the conversion of farmland to nonagricultural uses when public agencies make programmatic/planning and project-level decisions. The State Environmental Policy Act review process can assist agency decision-makers to address this issue by:

  1. Identifying and taking into account the adverse effects of these actions on the preservation and conservation of agricultural lands.
  2. Considering alternative actions, as appropriate,
  3. Assuring that such actions appropriately mitigate for unavoidable impacts to agricultural resources.

Project proponents and SEPA lead agencies are encouraged to better evaluate the impacts of proposals to agricultural lands with the following guidance for related questions in the current SEPA checklist.

Environmental Checklist Section B

8. Land and shoreline use

a. What is the current use of the site and adjacent properties?

Be as specific as possible.  The words in parentheses are examples that give more information than classifications alone.

  • Agricultural (orchard, crop farm, cattle ranch, dairy farm, poultry, etc.).

Is there any agriculture land directly affected by the proposal, or near the vicinity of a project site?  If yes, describe.

Would this proposal affect the ability of the adjacent agricultural landowners to continue farming?

Would this proposal affect existing agricultural drainage patterns within the vicinity? If yes, please generally describe.

Would this proposal affect or interfere with normal agricultural operations such as oversize equipment access, pesticide applications, and tilling and harvesting?  If yes, generally describe.

  • Residential (apartment/condominiums, townhouses/duplexes, single-family homes, group home, etc.)
  • Commercial (gas station/mini-mart, restaurant, grocery store, strip mall, super mall, etc.)
  • Community or public services (school, church, daycare, fire station, etc.).
  • Industrial (warehouse, light manufacturing, pulp and paper mill, refinery, etc.)
  • Natural resource (forest land, mining, wildlife preserve, etc.)
  • Recreational (golf course, country club, resort, park, etc.).

b. Has the site been used for agriculture?  Is so, describe.

Provide specific information on any land-use conversion directly or indirectly caused by the proposal.

How much agriculture land will be converted to a nonagricultural use of a result of this proposal?

Will this proposal result in placing or removing agricultural soils from the site?  If yes, generally describe.

Describe proposed measures to preserve or enhance agricultural resource lands, if any.