This year’s process for reviewing sites within Mazama pocket gopher territory will look a lot like last year’s season, as Thurston County recently announced a similar finalized interim process, with a few tweeks, for this year’s reviewing season.
Changes anticipated for this year’s season include allowing properties with a gopher history to apply for another review five years after the initial determination, a cut-off date for submitting consultation reports and an added exemption of review for well and utility replacement, according to a media release. County staff are scheduled to conduct site visits June 3 through Oct. 31 this year.
The county is also developing a Habitat Conservation Plan, which will include several endangered species whose habitat lies within the county, according to a media release. Until the plan is published, county staff will continue the long process of reviewing sites multiple times on a project-by-project basis. Each year the reviewing process is revised, and the process is used to streamline the gopher review process and prioritize projects.
Since the gopher was federally listed on the Endangered Species List, Thurston County has engaged with an interim strategy for screening properties potentially impacted by Mazama pocket gophers.
Those looking to apply for gopher review from last year might note the process looking similar. The county will still make two property visits, prioritize project-related permit applications when scheduling site visits, applicants will still have the option for citizens to hire a private, qualified consultant and some sites may be excluded from multiple visits.
According to county officials, gopher reviews are only required for projects within mapped gopher soils — the county only reviews “a fraction,” or 10 percent, according to a media release, of the average 4,000 construction permit applications they receive in a year.
Thurston County is currently in works to finalize a Habitat Conservation Plan, which would make the yearly review season a thing of the past. The draft is being finalized in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
“The plan isn’t final yet, but Thurston County Commissioners are working closely with federal officials to negotiate the best options for the community,” the media release states.
While it’s clear that county officials are close to gaining approval from the federal government, it’s unclear when the Conservation Plan could be implemented by the county. Thurston County officials were not available for comment by presstime.