The public has until April 19 to submit comments on the state’s draft recovery plan for the Mazama pocket gopher. The burrowing rodent is listed by the state as a threatened species.
The plan from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife outlines strategies the state and its partners will use to conserve and restore existing pocket gopher populations in seven areas of the south Puget Sound region.
Five of the seven pocket gopher populations identified in the plan are in Thurston County, one is in Mason County near the Shelton Airport and another is in southern Pierce County and includes part of Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
The primary goal of the draft plan is to maintain or increase pocket gopher populations in the seven areas where wildlife managers believe they have the greatest chance of long-term survival, said Eric Gardner, wildlife diversity manager.
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“Much of the historical gopher habitat of the south Puget Sound area has been lost to housing construction and other development in recent decades,” he said in a news release. “This plan focuses on protecting gopher populations living on the larger remaining grasslands in prairie areas.”
Recent surveys conducted by the department confirm that the largest remaining gopher populations inhabit public land around the airports in Olympia and Shelton, and at the base.
To protect these and other key populations, the draft supports a mix of existing local land-use regulations, habitat restoration and educational programs designed to increase public understanding and acceptance of pocket gophers.
Gardner said all three counties included in the plan provide protection for pocket gophers through critical area ordinances. In addition, the state agency has been working with a variety of partners – including the two airports and Lewis-McChord – to maintain or restore essential gopher habitat.
The draft recovery plan: You can find it on the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01449.
To comment: Written comments on the draft plan may be submitted via email to TandEpubliccom@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to Endangered Species Section, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.