County Commissioners bring back CAO requirements for permit applicants with gophers
Thurston County Commissioners voted to follow the County's Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) instead of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) guidance that outlines the steps permit applicants need to take who have evidence of Mazama pocket gopher activity on their property during inspections.
The County Commissioners' action was in response to the state's Growth Management Hearing Board (GMHB) finding that the County did not comply with the CAO in 2015 when it directed applicants with gophers directly to USFWS, the federal agency that oversees the Endangered Species Act and the ESA-listed gopher.
The CAO requires permit applicants with evidence of gophers to hire a qualified professional to write critical area reports and propose mitigation. It also sets time limits for the County to review those reports and to deny or issue permits.
By returning to the CAO requirements, applicants with gophers who meet all other County permit requirements may get a County permit, and in the time frames laid out in the CAO. But County officials note that these permitted applicants will still be responsible for complying with the ESA prior to breaking ground, and they encourage applicants to work with USFWS. That's because the County's changing requirements don't remove any of the federal requirements associated with Endangered Species Act. County officials say that meeting those federal requirements will be incorporated as a condition of approval, which accompanies most permits.
To learn more about the County's Critical Areas Ordinance, visit www.co.thurston.wa.us/planning/critical_areas/criticalareas-adopted-ordinance.html
. To learn about the County's gopher review process, visit www.co.thurston.wa.us/permitting/gopher-reviews/index.html