Center of Attention

The Mazama pocket gopher has been the center of attention for developers and conservationists due to its listing as a threatened species. 

Thurston County officials reviewed more than 664 applications and identified 34 sites as being occupied by Mazama pocket gophers this season, an official with the county said. 

During the season, which spanned June 1 through Oct. 31, Building and Planning Manager Brett Bures, with the Thurston County Community Planning and Economic Development, said  county officials reviewed around 664 applications and identified at least 34 sites in unincorporated Thurston County as occupied by pocket gophers. 

Additional data on Thurston County’s Mazama pocket gopher review season should be available in late November, Bures said. 

According to information posted on the county’s review process, only about 10 percent of all applications require gopher reviews, and of those reviewed only about 10 percent are found to be occupied by gophers. 

Four subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher were listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service back in 2014. All four federally-protected subspecies are found in Thurston County. 

Researchers believe the decline in pocket gopher populations is attributed to the loss of habitat, coinciding with the disappearance of rural prairies, grasslands, low-lying shrubbery and meadows, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

The county is currently developing a Habitat Conservation Plan with the federal government. Until the plan is published, county staff will continue to arduous process of reviewing sites multiple times and on a project-by-project basis. 

This year’s process included a few changes but was consistent with last years. County staff amended the process to allow citizens with properties found to have gophers in past seasons the ability to review five years after the initial determination, added a cut-off date for consultants, and added an exemption of review for well and utility replacements. 

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