The Thurston County Commissioners in collusion with the US Fish and Wildlife Service have created a novel method of extracting additional tax dollars from prospective new homeowners in Washington State. According to public documents, Thurston County staff has proposed a new gopher tax, up to $42,000 for new homeowners who might consider building a home on or near land that might be inhabited by a rodent called the Mazama Pocket Gopher. This gopher tax (called “mitigation” in planner-speak) would be in addition to any other fees, permits, taxes, or other costs that might be imposed on the construction of a new home in Thurston County, Washington. For direct links to the concept files written and presented by Thurston County planning staff go here and here.
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The $42,000 gopher tax is likely to become law later this year. Two of the three Commissioners (Sandra Romero and Cathy Wolfe) have been supportive of the plan and the process for many years now. In addition, the Thurston County Planning Department has been largely controlled by the US Fish & Wildlife Service for years – many of the county employees are entirely subsidized by USFWS grant money. This has been a concern of property rights advocates for many years because local county staff won’t question their orders from USFWS when their jobs depend on grant dollars from that federal agency.
Another aspect of the gopher tax that has local observers concerned is the current plan for much of this money to be transferred to an out-of-state nonprofit organization. Some of these gopher tax monies would stay in Thurston County, but it appears that after insiders get their cut, most of these funds would be sent to an out-of-state organization to manage local taxpayer-purchased land that could be set aside as bonus pocket gopher habitat.
The Pocket Gopher – Endangered Animal or Convenient Excuse?
The Thurston County Mazama pocket gopher was listed as a threatened species by the USFWS in April, 2014. The listing process was controversial, and generated a lot of local citizen backlash as well as open ridicule by rural Thurston County residents directed at the Commissioners, USFWS, and others who championed the original listing process. Most casual observers could see that something was very wrong in Thurston County.
Pocket gophers are considered pest rodents throughout most of the United States where they live. They are prolific and resilient creatures, often found in areas that have been heavily disturbed by agriculture or forestry efforts. In fact, the two largest concentrations of pocket gophers in Thurston County were found at the Olympia Airport and the surrounding industrial park and at the nearby Fort Lewis Firing Range. Interestingly, the very gophers who USFWS claims are threatened, thrive in the middle of the artillery impact range on a piece of land that has been repeatedly pulverized, destroyed, and burned for most of a century. Now, both USFWS and the Thurston County planning department argue that building a home on 5 acres will so harm the gophers that a prospective homeowner must pay $42,000 for permission to apply for a home – maybe.
Few observers accuse the USFWS of staying true to science or the facts when it comes to listing endangered species. On the east side of Washington State, USFWS attempted to list the “White Bluffs Bladder Pod” as an endangered species certain that this plant was so rare that it justified land restrictions. However, a local agricultural organization took samples of the “endangered” plant, conducted DNA tests, and determined that it was a very common weed found in many Western States. USFWS still plans to list the plant as endangered regardless of the truth or science. This wouldn’t be the first time USFWS has listed an animal on the Endangered Species list that wasn’t endangered. In some cases, the listed animals haven’t even been proven to exist.
The pocket gopher listing process has become just as silly. No USFWS employee is willing to say how many of these endangered pocket gophers actually exist. In fact, they tend to become angry if anyone dares ask. Partly, this is because past population counts have proven to be wildly inaccurate. Another reason government staff requires forced ignorance of the gopher population numbers is that it would lead to a logical question which they also refuse to answer – how many gophers do you need for them to no longer be considered threatened? None dare even think these thoughts, at least not if you want the grant gravy train to continue. Solving a real problem has never been the goal.
Interestingly enough, the DNA samples for this “endangered” gopher exist at the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife, but they refuse to allow an outside organization to take samples for an independant DNA test. It is illegal for someone to trap a gopher and take independent samples – you could be arrested and get a criminal record like this guy. Willful ignorance appears to be the order of the day in Thurston County and at the USFWS. Science and the facts are entirely irrelevant. The process is the point and the punishment.
We the Governed … Thurston County Invents $42,000 Gopher Tax for New Homeowners. March 1, 2016 Glen Morgan 2 Comments. The Thurston County Commissioners in collusion with the US Fish and Wildlife Service have ….. gallup poll results, they are here: http://www.gallup.com/poll/5392/trust-government.aspx
Subject: County Gopher Tax??
BRILLIANT! These greenies in Thurston County have outdone themselves here. Is this coming to all WA Counties in the future? Great article by our CAPR Director, Glen Morgan:
Jan 10, 2016 – Glen Morgan was the Grassroots Director and the Property Rights Director … Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR) “for exemplary performance in …
You can all learn a LOT from Glen’s website at: www.wethegoverened.com
Stevens County CAPR,Chapter 15
email: email@example.com…don’t send anything to: firstname.lastname@example.org -I never open it. 😉
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Just asking? Just saying….
MORE PETTY LARCENY IN WASHINGTON STATE?