Mazama pocket gopher listing decision on hold

Environment: State needs more information

ckrotzer@theolympian.comOctober 4, 2012 

The decision of whether to list the Mazama pocket gopher on the endangered species list has been delayed 60 days, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Lacey.

The director of the Fish and Wildlife Service and Gov. Chris Gregoire wrote letters requesting the delay.

“The state is still collecting information and wanted a little more time to process the information,” said Joanne Stellini, USFWS biologist.

A recommendation has been made for the streaked horned lark and the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, but will not be verified and announced until it is published with the federal registry, Doug Zimmer of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.

“Until it is published in the registry, it’s not final,” he said. “I have seen them go in one way and come out another way.”

Both species were submitted to the registry by the Sept. 30 deadline. It could take days or weeks until the findings are published.

A determination on the pocket gopher is expected to be sent to the federal registry by Nov. 30.

The animals are found in the South Puget Sound’s prairie lands, which is just 10 percent of the original prairies, with less than 3 percent considered high-quality habitat.

All three species have been on the consideration list for about a decade.

The species were petitioned to be placed on the endangered species list. It was determined the action was warranted, but because the species were at a lower risk than others being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they were put on a candidate list.

A fourth species, the mardon skipper butterfly, was removed from the candidate list pending further review. In the decade it was on the candidate list, Zimmer said the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management “took significant actions” to increase the amount of habitat for the species.

More of the butterflies also were discovered in that time.

“Over the years they did enough stuff and created enough habitat, we felt,” Zimmer said.

That was not the case for the pocket gopher, checkerspot butterfly or lark.

“They did not fare as well for a variety of reasons,” Zimmer said. “We are still going forward with a listing determination, whatever it turns out to be.”

Chelsea Krotzer:360-754-5476 ckrotzer@theolympian.com theolympian.com/thisjustin @chelseakrotzer

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