By Joseph Snook
Washington State – When Steve and Deborah McLain set out to build their dream home on 8 acres they purchased near the city of Tumwater, Wa., their permit was denied once the inspector saw a small mound of dirt. For the McLain’s and others in the area, the government has put a stop to several building projects – all because of a gopher.
Back in 2014, three species of the Mazama pocket gopher were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Since the gopher was listed as threatened, several property owners have been fighting to build on the land they own.
After denied a building permit for their legally owned property, a frustrated Deborah McLain stated, “The gopher has been able to enjoy our property the entire time, and they have more rights to our property than we do.”
One homebuilder stated the gopher issue is driving most builders out of the county in search of work.
Making this issue more complex, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which listed the gopher as threatened, can’t even provide population numbers for that species. In fact, the USFWS can’t even provide a rough guess as to how many pocket gophers are living in Thurston County.
According to Washington state USFWS Supervisor, Eric Rickerson, “It’s not based on number, it’s based on area and threats.” This statement by Mr. Rickerson is ripe for argument according to a group of property rights attorney’s. One attorney said, “for argument sake – everything is a threat. The USFWS needs to be reined in from their overzealous actions that strip U.S. Citizens of property rights.”
Adding another twist to this story, Thurston County officials are reportedly working on a conservation plan that would create a $42,000 gopher tax for homeowners who build on gopher habitat. A local resident who’s opposed stated, “what kind of person is willing to pay $42,000 extra when they can buy and build elsewhere? This ‘plan’ will make property worthless in Thurston County!”
Thurston County Commissioner Gary Edwards, although opposed to the gopher tax, stated the county is trying to avoid costly lawsuits by environmental groups.
One thing is certain – if you plan on living in Thruston County, Washington you’d better think twice before deciding to build there. The Gopherment might just stifle your dreams.