Secret Gopher Map Reveals Washington Agency’s Power

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Melissa GensonFifth in a series on a new ESA listing. The author states there may be more coming in this series.

A secret 2013 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife map that was accidentally placed in Thurston County Planning‘s public files has been obtained by Watchdog Wire.  The map purports to show locations of the newly federally protected pocket gopher.

The WDFW map, below, is from an aerial photo of rural land near the southwest Thurston County community of Rochester.  Property boundaries are marked with yellow lines.  Land outside the yellow lines are county right-of-ways.  Except for Rochester realtor Larry Weaver‘s lot near the map’s center identified by the parcel number ending in -701200, all individual parcel numbers have been redacted. The alleged gopher locations are identified by “on-site” green and “off-site” orange dots.

WDFW map showing alleged locations of pocket gopher mounds on individual land parcels. Map by Tammy Schmidt, WDFW, found in Thurston County public records.

WDFW map showing alleged locations of pocket gopher mounds on individual land parcels. Map by Tammy Schmidt, WDFW, found in Thurston County public records.

The map was to have remained unknown to the public, according to WDFW official Tammy Schmidt.  Schmidt created the map of three separate properties after her Dec. 2, 2013 field visit, by placing the green dots with white circles and the orange dots on the parcel map.  Schmidt describes how this map was created in her email at right.

These dots can criminalize something as simple as manicuring a lawn or planting a flower bed.

WDFW only had permission to be on one of these parcels, which belongs to Larry Weaver. Although the green dots in white circles were to show “Weaver gopher mounds,” the dots and circles are clearly encroaching on a neighboring lot.

The location of  pocket gopher mounds, which are created when the rodent surfaces, is critical for land use regulation because WDFW claims that each gopher remains stationary and doesn’t wander past its own small habitat area.  However, Pest Education states that pocket gophers can tunnel hundreds of feet to expand their habitat, burrowing under roads if necessary.

Schmidt did not provide any actual evidence of these gopher mounds, such as photos. According to Mike Cope, WDFW Regional Director, no such proof is required by their agency.

Trespassing on private property to document species at any time

In his Sept. 22, 2014 email, shown at right, Cope further explains how his agency, at any time, can create secret maps of any species on anyone’s property, with no permission or proof.

WDFW did not get permission from the property owner who shares Weaver’s green gopher dots, nor did they get permission from the property owner with orange dots on his property.  They state that they did not trespass to create these dots.

Orange and green dot areas that disprove WDFW map

A series of photos of these dot locations was taken on Oct. 19, 2014—the same approximate season as the 2013 map.  These photos show no evidence of pocket gophers at any of the locations.  WDFW claims that these gophers are stationary, and don’t move from place to place.

Prior to Tammy Schmidt’s December 2013 inspection, WDFW required Larry Weaver to mow his property so that Schmidt could see gopher mounds.  Even though Schmidt was allowed to walk on Weaver’s property and inspect it up close, she still insisted that it be mowed so she could see evidence of gophers.

Orange dots on WDFW map were supposed to identify “off site” gopher mounds on private property. According to WDFW map, gopher mounds were visible to the right of deciduous tree seen at upper left-center, from this distance. Photo by Steve Genson.

Orange dots on WDFW map were supposed to identify “off site” gopher mounds on private property. According to WDFW map, gopher mounds were visible to the right of deciduous tree seen at upper left-center, from this distance. Photo by Steve Genson.

“Off-site” gopher mounds documented on private property with orange dots. Gopher mounds were supposed to be to the right of deciduous tree in center, and visible from this distance. Photo by Steve Genson.

“Off-site” gopher mounds documented on private property with orange dots. Gopher mounds were supposed to be to the right of deciduous tree in center, and visible from this distance. Photo by Steve Genson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, to put the orange “off-site” dots on the map, Schmidt claimed that she could see evidence of far off gopher mounds on private property—from a distance, through tall grasses, and from behind shrubbery, as shown in these photos:

This is the “gopher mound” documented on the southern end of the map’s green dot row, on the border of two properties. Circle of similar sized stones could have been part of landscaping when property was part of a farm. Photo by Steve Genson.

This is the “gopher mound” documented on the southern end of the map’s green dot row, on the border of two properties. Circle of similar sized stones could have been part of landscaping when property was part of a farm. Photo by Steve Genson.

Ant hill where gopher mound was supposed to be, according to the WDFW map’s orange dot right inside of private property border. Photo by Steve Genson.

Ant hill where gopher mound was supposed to be, according to the WDFW map’s orange dot right inside of private property border. Photo by Steve Genson.

 

Mick Cope further stated that they have not informed the property owners that their land is now officially identified as having an ESA-listed species, with no proof and no recourse.

These unsupported WDFW maps and documentation restrict land use.  Thurston County’s reliance on unsupported WDFW documentation has even resulted in criminal and civil charges against citizens.  Any “dots” on these maps can render a land parcel worthless.

ESA listing of gopher is a hoax

Ironically, the actual pocket gopher ESA micro-listing has proven to be a hoax.  Although the species itself is plentiful and indestructible, officials have claimed that a Rochester area “subspecies” boasts massive penises, and therefore qualifies for protection.

Although WDFW has studied this rodent for over ten years, there has never been any proof of any subspecies with any size penis.

In the official federal ESA listing, U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFW) claimed that they didn’t need such proof, because the subspecies was recognized by the “International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature” (ICZN).

USFW’s claim about ICZN is also a hoax. The ICZN was once a small group who collected animal names and published a bulletin out of the London Natural History Museum. They have been cut loose from the museum, and are now broke.  They have no recognition of any scientific expertise or authority, and their registry shows no gophers of any kind.

Feature image of WDFW map, from Thurston County public records.  Blacked out areas are where property parcel numbers have been redacted.

This is Part 5 of a series about a new ESA micro-listing, and its impact on a rural community.