Thurston County will again require property owners to follow its Critical Areas Ordinance, instead of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidance, as had been the case coming into the 2016 construction season.
The CAO outlines the steps that permit applicants need to take if there is evidence of Mazama pocket gopher activity on their property during inspections.
The County Commissioners’ action came in response to the state’s Growth Management Hearing Board 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.
By returning to the CAO requirements, applicants with gophers on their property 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.