W. Wash. gopher going on endangered species list

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans Tuesday to list four subspecies of Mazama pocket gophers as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino and Yelm pocket gophers are found only in Pierce and Thurston counties.

The Olympian reports the decision follows more than a decade of debate, environmental studies and lawsuits.

Fish and Wildlife officials also have also designated 1,600 acres in Thurston County as critical habitat for the pocket gophers. A special rule will allow farming and ranching to continue.

The critical habitat proposed for the Roy Prairie pocket gopher is on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which has promised to preserve its prairie land.

A threatened species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future if steps aren't taken to protect it.