5000 gophers can’t be wrong

October 28th, 2011 by Ken

You’ve seen the signs everywhere. STOP Thurston County. They’re in response to Thurston County’s efforts to update the county’s comprehensive plan and its Critical Areas Ordinance.

The county has drafted new language and new proposals that many people feel are far reaching. Many worry that their property is in danger of becoming “irrelevant”. In other words, if the county’s ordinance is approved, people won’t be able to use their property at all.

That’s the fear, and it’s not without some merit.

As a matter of fact, it has so much merit that local governments are beginning to question whether or not the Critical Areas Ordinance goes to far.

And it centers around a little rodent called the Mazama Pocket Gopher. As the county defines it, this little rodent is a threatened species and a majority of Thurston County is prime gopher habitat. So prime in fact that the Port of Olympia estimates that as many as 5000 gophers live around the Olympia Airport – alone.

The gopher not only threatens private property, but public property as well. The port has been stymied in its efforts to develop property around the airport because of the gopher. The Tumwater School District has purchased property for a new school but its property is designated prime gopher habitat.

So, several local governments have decided to work together and fund an independent scientific study to determine what impact – if any – the pocket gophers will have.

The cities of Yelm, Tumwater and Lacey, along with the Tumwater and North Thurston School Districts, the Port of Olympia, the Economic Development Council and the Thurston County Chamber – have pooled their money and funded the study.

The stated purpose is to develop a base line guide on how local governments can respond to the Mazama Pocket Gopher. But, the underlying reason, not stated by local officials, is to determine if the gopher is really threatened and if the county’s new ordinance goes to far.

(This commentary aired on October 21 on KGY Radio AM1240.)

Posted in Business, Government, History, Informational, Local Politics, The Real News

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