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.