Public Access is Closed to MOST County Facilities Due to COVID-19.

In response to Governor Inslee's Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, Thurston County has moved to an essential services model, in effect
through Sunday, May 31, 2020. Courts and other elected offices may operate under different hours or restrictions.

(Solid waste facilities are open. For more information, visit: https://bit.ly/2SldUPq)
(For more information on essential functions, visit: https://bit.ly/3dwIBK8)
(For office contacts, visit: https://bit.ly/3bs7bdy)

Gopher Inspections

When you apply for a building permit, properties with gopher soils get on-property inspections to rule out the presence of Mazama pocket gophers, a species protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

2020 Gopher Inspection Summary

  • The County is conducting "No-Contact Inspections" for your safety and ours. Details in this "No-Contact Gopher & Prairie Plant Inspections" info sheet (PDF).
  • Inspections run June 1 – October 31.
  • Properties get two on-property visits, 30 days apart.
  • The County automatically schedules inspections for applicants (only when required by County Code) unless you hire your own consultant.
  • Applicant's choice: Use a County inspector for a fee, or hire a consultant. Details below.
  • Inspectors look for gophers living underground.
  • Properties mapped with gopher soils & prairie soils may get gopher and also prairie plant inspections.
  • Prepare for inspection by mowing 2-4 weeks before (for gopher-only inspections). Don't mow if getting gopher & prairie plant inspection. Details below.
  • If a property has gophers, most projects can still go forward. Details below. 

Applicants    County Map (See if a property has gopher soils)  |   Gopher & Prairie Soils List (PDF)   |   Consultant List   |   Mowing Instructions (PDF)   |  Permit Status Lookup   |   County Exclusions to Gopher Inspection (PDF)  |   Federal Exclusions to Gopher Inspection (PDF)  |    2020 Gopher Inspection Fact Sheet (PDF)   |  Prairie Plant Inspection   |   Gopher & Prairie Plant Inspection info sheet (PDF)

Consultants   Official 2020 Gopher Review Protocol (PDF)  |  Official Data Submittal Instructions (PDF)  |   Official MPG Field Review Data Forms (PDF)

2020 Gopher Inspection Details 


When Inspections are Required
Properties with mapped gopher soils, within 300' of mapped soils, or within 600' of known gopher locations. On the County map, the soils are marked as More or Less Preferred. On the Prairie Soils List PDF document, the soil names are detailed and include slope details.

Choose an Inspector & Notify the County
Applicants can choose to use a County inspector for a fee, or may hire their own consultant from the list above (fees apply). Notify the County of your choice, in writing. Consultants must be on the list above, must have completed U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service training, and must follow County inspection protocols. The County will automatically schedule your gopher inspections IF you use a County inspector. The County does not schedule independent consultants.

What Inspectors Look For
Inspectors look for evidence that gophers are living underground on a property. They walk the entire property, examine the ground, soils and vegetation. They may dig a small hole. They replace soil if they do. They don't enter buildings or disturb manicured lawns. Please read how to prepare for inspection, and see 2020 mowing instructions.

How to Prepare for Inspection
Preparation depends on which inspections are required for your project property. 

  • For gopher-only inspections, mow tall grass and weeds before inspection so ground is visible. But don't dig, move dirt, pull stumps, add gravel or level ground or mounds.
  • For gopher and prairie plant inspection, don't mow, dig, move dirt, level mounds, pull stumps, add gravel before inspection. Prairie plant inspectors need to see the grass and plants even if they are tall, overgrown or in mature stages. Gopher inspectors do not. It is okay to mow after the prairie plant inspection is complete.  

If Gophers are on a Property

Most, projects can still go forward. Applicants may choose an option that meets the County's Critical Areas code, Title 24, including: change the project footprint to avoid impacts to gophers; work directly with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to get a federal permit for your project (an Incidental Take Permit w/an individual Habitat Conservation Plan for your project); wait for the County's Habitat Conservation Plan (which will cover most permit applicants); talk to the County's gopher inspection project manager about the the County CAO options (PDF). 

How to Get a Gopher Inspection without Submitting a Building Permit Application
Apply for a Critical Area Review, and the County will inspect the property and list all the critical areas found. For an additional fee, the County will conduct gopher inspections. You can also hire your own biologist.  Contact us, or visit our applications web page for details.