Washington State Protects Endangered Gophers Better than Cops, Citizens

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Melissa GensonThird in a series on new ESA listing. Part Four will be published on October 28, 2014.

todd-screenshot-630x286Do Washington State officials believe that threatening excessive force against peaceful citizens is justified if a rodent’s life may be in danger?  Or that rodents have more rights and deserve more protection than understaffed cops and the citizens they protect?

Based on their track record with the newly minted ESA micro-listing of the well-endowed pocket gopher, it appears they do.

Five cops rein in unarmed man for killing a gopher

In 2010, five armed officers gathered to arrest Chris Weaver, a Rochester resident of Washington.  Weaver was unarmed, and voluntarily showed up for his arrest on his property.

How many crimes require that kind of firepower and manpower?  Murder? Assault? Robbery?

Weaver’s crime was trapping a gopher that wasn’t even listed as endangered at the time.  In 2010, trapping the gopher was simply a violation of a Thurston County ordinance.

How many government agencies have the budget to send five armed officers to arrest an unarmed man who voluntarily turned himself in for killing a rodent? Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has ample budget for that–and more.

WDFW apparently had sufficient dollars to run DNA tests to verify that a trapped gopher had a visibly huge penis. It is unclear why DNA tests were needed to see if a gopher had a feature that was supposed to be visible to the naked eye.

The DNA-tested gopher was trapped on property owned by Larry Weaver who, along with his family, has been long-time critics of the current county officials and their gopher protection.

So far, WDFW has not complied with citizen requests for documentation of the DNA evidence from Larry Weaver’s gopher.

“Criminal” Chris Weaver is Larry Weaver’s son.

In this video, Chris describes the events that led to his arrest by five armed WDFW officers, and the aftermath: 

The politics of the gopher habitat

Much of the Rochester-area gopher “habitat” had been previously slated for business and residential development in this strategically located area near the interchange of north-south Interstate 5 and east-west U.S. 12.  Rochester’s I-5 exit is midway between Seattle and Portland.

Besides the I-5 interchange, Rochester also boasts a stop on the rapidly growing Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad, which connects the Port of Grays Harbor to major rail lines Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.  Grays Harbor is Washington State’s only deep water ocean port.

This incredibly valuable real estate has become essentially worthless to owners, through the progression of a series of local gopher ordinances that paved the way for April’s micro-listing for this local family of gophers, based on bureaucrats’ claims of these rodents’ massive penises.

Rochester citizens have been vocal about their opposition to gopher protection laws, especially in light of the great financial losses incurred by many residents.  Some have lost their family homes and life savings because of gopher laws.

After gopher protection became an issue, Rochester citizens voted overwhelmingly against the incumbent Thurston County Commissioners.

In October 2012, Thurston Commissioner Sandra Romero told the Lacey Chamber of Commerce that the Rochester citizens who told of all they lost because of gopher protection were “just background noise” to her.

Republican Rochester is safer for gophers than Democratic Tumwater

It took five armed officers to avenge the death of a Rochester gopher. Yet just a few miles to the north, gopher traps are peacefully visible in the yards of residents of the heavily Democratic Tumwater area.

To meet that community’s demand, a wide variety of gopher traps are sold in Tumwater stores.

Democratic Thurston County Assessor Steve Drew refused to lower assessed value for useless gopher land

Meanwhile, Rochester property owners struggle with the effects of not being able to use or sell their formerly valuable land that still remains taxed at its previous value.

The document at right shows a property owner’s unsuccessful attempt to get Thurston County Assessor Steve Drew to reduce the assessed value of his once-valuable commercial lot, that is now useless vacant land because of gopher protection.  This property is right by a supermarket on busy U.S. Highway 12, at the main Rochester intersection.  The owner is trying to sell the land for a fraction of its former value, with no offers.

More protection for rural rodents than rural cops

Some Rochester citizens have lost their life savings because of the ridiculous claim about rodents with super-sized genitals.  Some lost their lifelong homes.  Job markets dried up when construction and business development halted.

Peaceful, law-abiding Rochester residents are mulling over a changed world where they are confronted with new kinds of armed police power like WDFW.

How many other government agencies now have the unbridled authority, massive budget, excessive manpower, and lethal weapons to converge on unarmed citizens for simply trying to live normal life and do normal things?

Where is all of this heading?  The “new police” aren’t telling us.

Meanwhile, Washington State’s rural officers who have rules, follow protocol, and have real responsibilities for citizens’ safety, have to contend with a bare bones budget.  They frequently work alone while facing potential danger to themselves and others.

These officers and citizens lack the protection, concern, and taxpayer dollars that are lavished on prolific rodents that are lucky enough to have armed guards to ensure their right to live on valuable and politically charged real estate. 

Despite citizen protests, USFW stands by their micro-listing based on the Rochester gophers’ alleged trait of super-sized penises, compared to the penises on gophers in nearby communities with different real estate values and voting records.

The bureaucrats have provided no evidence of this trait–nor does the ESA require such proof.

Based on a review of Thurston County property assessments, it appears that the larger a gopher’s penis is, the more he prefers high value real estate for his habitat.

This is Part 3 of a series about a new ESA micro-listing, and its impact on a rural community.