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Permit Reviews on Gopher Soils

Applications for projects on gopher soils may need a site visit during the permit process. Please note that the last day of site visits this year is anticipated to be October 31, 2014, weather permitting. It is advisable to submit your application before October 6 to help ensure we can accommodate all requests.

On April 8, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed four subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher under the federal Endangered Species Act. This summer, the County has been working with USFWS to review applications for projects in areas where pocket gophers may exist. The County does not currently require applicants to hire professional biologists to perform site visits. If a biologist’s survey is necessary, USFWS will make a formal request in writing.

Though this is the first year Thurston County is working directly with staff from USFWS, the county has used a seasonal approach to gopher site visits for the last five years. During the off-season (Nov. 1 - May 31), gophers are not as active in constructing mounds, and field surveys are much less reliable.  This seasonal approach was originally developed in 2009 by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

County and USFWS staff conduct site visits to determine if gophers are present and if so, whether the proposed project would have an impact on their habitat. Site visits are used as a screening tool by Thurston County staff to assist the applicant (Chapters 24.05.027 & 17.15.320 TCC). USFWS sends a letter to the County every week stating which projects are “good to go” with respect to gophers, and which projects may require additional technical assistance or planning.

People without applications currently pending or those with vested lots can also request a site visit. A fee may be assessed for these visits.

See the poster displayed in the Permitting Assistance Center.


April 9, 2014

As part of a broader effort to preserve the native prairie ecosystem of the South Puget Sound area, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on April 9, 2014 it will protect four subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.  The protected subspecies –, the Olympia pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama pugetensis), Roy Prairie pocket gopher (T. m. glacialis), Tenino pocket gopher (T. m. tumuli), and Yelm pocket gopher (T. m. yelmensis) – are found in Thurston and Pierce Counties of Washington State. The listing will go into effect 30 days after the announcement. You can read the official announcement here in the Federal Register.

October 3, 2013

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined in a final rule that the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly is endangered, and that the streaked horned lark is threatened. The rule is effective November 4, 2013. The federally protected species have been added to the List of Endangered Species and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Read the final rule here.

September 3, 2013

The USFWS announced they would delay the decision to list four subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher to provide more time to develop information. Subject areas currently being explored include:

  • Nature and level of threats associated with agricultural or ranching practices to Mazama pocket gophers in Washington
  • Nature and level of threats associated with high-density commercial, industrial, and residential development or urbanization to Mazama pocket gophers in Washington
  • Distribution and relative abundance of Mazama pocket gophers, including maps and survey information, in Washington

August 29, 2013

Current evidence suggests that the Oregon spotted frog is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. As a result, USFWS has proposed to protect the frog as a threatened species under the ESA. They also proposed to designate 68,192 acres and 23 stream miles in Washington and Oregon as critical habitat. Click here to read the proposed rule.

Public meetings

There are no public meetings scheduled at this time. To receive news and notifications about the Habitat Conservation Plan, join our mailing list by clicking here.


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Contact Us

Interested Parties: If you would like to be added to our Web Mail list, please click here. Staff contact: Andrew Deffobis, Associate Planner. Phone: (360) 754-3355, ext. 5467. E-mail: deffoba@co.thurston.wa.us.

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