Government claims about pocket gopher protection remain flawed


UNFOUNDED HABITAT CLAIMS: The Mazama pocket gopher’s escalation to federal protection reveals flaws in local, state, and federal claims about their habitat.

By Melissa Genson |

A new addition to the Endangered Species Act, the Mazama pocket gopher, is found to have popped up in the lush, rainy forests and mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

And who can blame it? The forests and mountains are beautiful.

Except there’s one problem: it’s not supposed to be there.

HERE: Officials claim that protected gophers need tall, dry grasses to survive. This residential building lot’s yard can’t be watered or tended, because it’s classified as “critical gopher habitat.”

According to federal, Washington State, and county officials, the Mazama pocket gopher is a fragile, solitary creature that is extremely picky about its habitat and its conjugal duties. They claim that the gopher won’t breed if its tastes aren’t suited — and it can’t abide heavy forests, wet soils, rocks, most vegetation, and just about anything that isn’t found in a few small patches of western Washington prairies.

It would serve to reason that it certainly couldn’t share the wet forest habitat of his fellow Northwest ESA-listed species, the northern spotted owl.

Officials claim that four Mazama “subspecies” in south Thurston County, Washington, are so isolated and reluctant to breed that they are likely to become extinct. The Rochester-area subspecies allegedly boasts a massive reproductive organ that apparently also needs government protection.

As a result of these claims, heavy land-use restrictions designed to preserve habitat for these allegedly picky rodents have stripped the value and usefulness from a lot of property in south Thurston County. Residents have lost their homes and life savings because of these restrictions.

However, the pocket gopher’s escalation to federal protection reveals flaws in these powerful habitat claims.

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