The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission plans to hear a briefing and public comment on a recovery plan and status review of the Mazama pocket gopher Friday, in what is essentially a redo of a discussion that happened in mid-June.
At that meeting, a scheduled public comment period never happened due to an administrative "hiccup," so people who had anticipated providing comment weren't given the opportunity, said Hannah Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Diversity Division Manager. The timing of the gopher briefing was also different than what was listed on the agenda.
"The big message is: There is an opportunity for public comment, and it will happen," Anderson said in a phone interview Thursday.
Twenty minutes of a multi-day meeting are dedicated to discussing the critter, which is known locally for causing permitting headaches for would-be property developers.
The briefing and public comment period is scheduled to start at 3:45 p.m. Friday. Commission spokesperson Jason Wettstein recommends those interested in just this conversation tune in by about 3:30 p.m., even though the commission will be trying to stick tightly to its planned timeline.
Members of the public can attend via webinar or conference call, and a recording of the meeting will later be posted online. A link to the Zoom webinar is available online here: https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/commission/meetings/2020/30july-01aug2020-fwc-agenda. Instructions will be provided during the meeting to people who want to comment, according to Wettstein.
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The commission will not be taking action Friday on a recommendation for the gopher to stay on the state's threatened species list, Anderson said.
In a draft of the recovery plan and status review, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff recommends the gopher stay on the list, where it was first listed in 2006. It includes objectives to meet before down-listing to "sensitive" status and, ultimately, de-listing should be considered.
The objectives include how many reserves should be established in seven specific areas -- five in Thurston County, one in Pierce, one in Mason -- and the size of gopher populations most of those reserves should support.
As The Olympian previously reported, this is the first state status review since 2006, when the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission first listed the gophers, which live on prairies in Thurston, Pierce and Mason counties and in sub-alpine areas of Olympic National Park.
The recovery plan isn't regulatory, Anderson told The Olympian in December. Rather, it will guide conservation and recovery efforts.