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Feds Delay Controversial Decision On Pocket Gopher Protection

Tom Banse. File photo of a Mazama pocket gopher

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is postponing a controversial decision on whether to list the Mazama pocket gopher as a threatened species in the South Puget Sound area.

Washington State manager Ken Berg says his agency wants six additional months to consider input from upset landowners and affected counties. Berg says farmers and ranchers in Thurston County claim there are more pocket gophers than the government realizes and that they can co-exist with human activity.

"If we get additional information in this new comment period that indicates that certain ranching and farming practices are not as great of a threat to the species, we will take that all into consideration as we make a final determination on whether or not to list," says Berg.

In its original endangered species listing proposal, the Fish and Wildlife Service said urban development and farming have wiped out 90 to 95 percent of the lowland prairie habitat where the pocket gopher lives.

Berg says his agency is not delaying decisions on two other prairie-dependent species proposed for protection around the same time as the pocket gopher. They are the streaked horned lark and the Taylor's checkerspot butterfly. Final listing decisions and habitat set asides for those critters are due by the end of September.

On the Web:

Mazama pocket gopher ESA listing proposal - US Fish and Wildlife Service

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.