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Can a Well-Endowed “Endangered” Gopher Really Drive a Tractor?

This is Part 2 of a series about a new ESA micro-listing, and its impact on a rural community. Read Part 1Part 2, Part 3 here, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.

In Washington state’s Thurston County, bureaucrats won Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for a tiny cluster of pocket gophers because of their alleged super-sized penises. However, nobody but local officials appear to have seen this feature.  They have offered no proof of this endowment, nor does the ESA require such proof.

The federal government spent fifty years unsuccessfully trying to kill off the pocket gopher.  They breed uncontrollably under any conditions, and are the most destructive mammal to structures, pipes, underground cables, trees, crops, and the environment.  They breed prolifically on the Fort Lewis artillery impact range, and were one of the few species to survive the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption.

Weaver Reads Federal Decision to ESA List Local Gophers Because of Large Penises

Larry Weaver reads decision to list local gophers because of large penises.  Photo by Steve Genson

The gophers’ physique and virility has been overshadowed, however, by their apparent innate ability to operate heavy equipment.  This ability was also identified by local officials, to justify targeting a piece of private property and making it vulnerable to vandalism.

Local developer endures gopher inspection

Larry Weaver is a realtor and small developer in the southwest Thurston County community of Rochester.  He purchases residential lots and builds affordable houses to sell.  Each of Weaver’s houses includes a nice yard in its modest price.

Weaver is a fourth generation Rochester resident, and has worked in real estate since the 1970s.  He is owner and broker for Dream Weavers Real Estate, and is on the Board of Directors of the Rochester Water Association.

A few years back, Larry Weaver applied for a permit to build a small home on a 50 ft x 100 ft lot.  Local officials then started pursuing an ESA micro-listing for the prolific, destructive pocket gophers with the alleged trait of large penises, compared to the penises of gophers in neighboring communities.

WDFW First Accepts Professional Assessment of No Gophers - Then Reverses on Tractor Evidence

WDFW first accepts professional assessment of no gophers – then reverses on tractor evidence

On November 26, 2013, after a long series of visits by state and local employees to his planned home building lot, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) emailed Weaver’s professional scientific consulting firm, Key Environmental.  WDFW finally appeared willing to accept Key’s opinion that Weaver’s lot had no gophers with penises of any size.

If WDFW had accepted Key Environmental’s no-gopher report, they would have advised Thurston County that Weaver should be able to finally build on his lot, after he had paid thousands of dollars to various agencies and private consultants.

WDFW visited Weaver’s lot one more time.

Inspector concludes: gophers can drive a tractor, excavate a drain field

During field inspections to search for evidence of these special gophers, officials are not required to look for any reasonable signs of gopher activity.  They are not required to find gopher holes, hair, feces, or any actual evidence.  They are not required to take photographs or show any reasonable proof of gophers with any size of genitals.

Their only requirement is to show any sign of soil disturbance, from any cause.

Home owners must keep their yard this way, or face criminal charges

Owners must keep their yard exactly this way, or face criminal and civil charges.  Photo by Steve Genson

During this field inspection, WDFW employee Tammy Schmidt located a scrape on the ground and stated that it was evidence of the protected gophers.

Larry Weaver pointed out that he had caused the scrape himself, with his tractor bucket.

Schmidt then went on and found some rocks and rough ground and declared that it was yet another sign of a rodent with a large penis.

Weaver pointed out that she had actually discovered the newly built septic drain field, which was on the site documents for the lot.

However, Schmidt had found all she needed to report signs of well-endowed gopher activity.

Height of Dry Grass in "Gopher Park" Compared to People Standing in New House Site

Height of Dry Grass in “Gopher Park” Compared to People in New House Site. Photo by Steve Genson

A tractor bucket scrape, and a septic drain field.

That was all that was needed for WDFW to refute the professional scientists, and to notify Thurston County government that Larry Weaver’s lot had protected gophers.

It was further determined that the tractor scrape and the drainfield showed evidence of three gophers on the lot, that would require a large amount of habitat space.

As a result, Weaver had to severely limit the size of the house that he was building, to a width of sixteen feet.

This document tells owners of criminal and civil charges if they care for their lawn properly

This document tells owners of criminal and civil charges if they take care of their property responsibly

He was further required to set aside essentially all of the usable yard and turn it into “gopher habitat”–an unkempt, overgrown, dry mess of weeds.

WDFW has not responded to any requests for an explanation of their decision on this lot.

Gopher habitat encourages vandalism, theft

Unkempt, overgrown yards are a magnet for vandalism and theft.  Prince William County, VA states:

Overgrown yards are not only an eyesore but a community safety issue: Weeded lots give an impression no one cares for the neighborhood. This attracts crime and vandalism, eroding community safety and value.

Legally required sign is hidden by legally required weeds

Required sign is hidden by required weeds

Tall grass and weeds also harbor rodents and other vermin that are unsafe and unpleasant in residential communities. In many cases one uncared for lot slowly leads to a cluster of neglected properties.

Because of that, some insurance companies will raise rates for unkempt, overgrown yards.

Overgrown, unkempt yards will also decrease the sales value of neighboring properties.

Residents of Coventry, Rhode Island can be fined for the kind of unkempt yards that are required by law in southwest Thurston County.

Law requires this new home to keep yard as tall dry grass - eisting homes in background have mowed green lawns, landscaping and trees

Law requires this new planned home to keep unsightly tall weeds as their yard – existing homes shown in background have green lawns, landscaping and trees.  Photo by Steve Genson

 A short distance from Weaver’s lot, neighboring homes boast lovely, green, manicured lawns, trees and gardens.

These homes and yards were created, and grandfathered in, before the local officials became obsessed with the penis size of ordinary rodents.

South Puget Sound Prairies, an organization that supports the ESA micro-listing, displays deceptive website photos purporting to show what protected gopher habitat looks like, without human intervention.

The photos differ dramatically from the actual landscape.

New house site on left. Law requires these tall weeks be their view of their whole yard.  Photo by Steve Genson

New house site on left. Law requires these tall weeds be their view of their yard. Photo by Steve Genson

Missing DNA evidence?

WDFW told Larry Weaver that they had trapped a pocket gopher on one of his other lots, and had performed DNA tests to verify that it actually belonged to the clan of well-endowed gophers.

Weaver asked for documentation of these DNA tests. He was told that the documentation was unavailable.

Law requires new homeowners keep their yard as this "Gopher Park," or face criminal and civil charges.  Photo by Steve Genson

Law requires new homeowners keep their whole yard as this “Gopher Park,” or face criminal and civil charges. Photo by Steve Genson

A public records request has been submitted to WDFW for these DNA tests.

WDFW has responded that they need until September 15 to determine which requested documents can be disclosed, or even located.

Any DNA documentation disclosed by WDFW, or lack thereof, will be reported here at Watchdog Wire.

Any DNA documentation will also be given to independent scientists, for verification.

This is Part 2 of a series about a new ESA micro-listing, and its impact on a rural community.  Read Part 1Part 2, Part 3 here, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.

Feature image photo by Steve Genson.

Photo portraying gopher habitat as lovely green meadow, from website of organization that supports this pocket gopher micro-listing.  Photo from southsoundprairies.org

Photo deceptively portrays protected gopher habitat as a lovely green meadow with wildflowers, from website of organization that supports this pocket gopher micro-listing. Photo from southsoundprairies.org

 

Melissa Genson

Melissa Genson, a resident of Washington State, is the regional editor for Watchdog Wire - Northwest. Contact her at Northwest@WatchdogWire.com.

More Posts

Categories: Environment, Government Transparency, Must Read, Policy, Waste, Fraud and Abuse

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