Tumwater plans to buy mitigation credits from Puget Western to save gophers


Tumwater is looking to purchase 111 mitigation credits from Puget Western as part of the Brush Prairie Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), which requires the city to mitigate the effect of its activities on the local population of pocket gophers.

The HCP, which is being developed together with the Port of Olympia, aims to facilitate development while preserving four endangered species within the city: the Olympia Pocket Gopher (Thomomys mazama pugetensis), the Oregon Spotted Frog (Rana pretiosa), the Streaked Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata), and the Oregon Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus affinis).

City Administrator John Doan explained during a February 14 city council meeting that the city’s activities mostly impact the pocket gophers. The lark and sparrow tend to be found on Port property and are the priority of the Port, while the frogs are in areas already protected by the city’s regulations for critical areas.

The purchase of mitigation credits is an alternative method to complying with the Endangered Species Act, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Documents prepared by city staff added that the purchase of the credits is an interim measure until Tumwater can acquire land that will be used as permanent conservation sites for pocket gophers as required by the HCP.

Doan explained that the purchase of mitigation credits resolves a “chicken and egg” situation where the FWS wants Tumwater to buy land in preparation for the implementation of the HCP. But without an HCP, city staff does not know which land to buy.      

The city administrator added that they have been trying to ask legislation for funding to purchase land for conservation but said that federal funding is only available to those who already have an HCP.

Doan clarified that 111 mitigation credits are not enough to accomplish the city’s mitigation goals. The city would need 1,000 mitigation credits in total, corresponding to the 1,000 acres of land that the city plans to purchase as permanent conservation sites for pocket gophers.

Tumwater plans inter-fund loan to purchase credits

Purchasing 111 mitigation credits would cost the city around $5-8 million. Doan said they plan to take an inter-fund loan from sewer utilities to finance the purchase.

City Council Member Michael Althauser questioned whether the purchase would impair other projects for the sewer facilities, but Doan assured that the loan could be absolved as city staff plans to use 30 of the 111 mitigation credits for the city’s own public projects.

The rest of the credits would be sold to other entities, with the city planning to reserve 30 credits for the Port, 20 credits for the Tumwater School District, and ten credits for the Secretary of State.

Asked by City Council Member Angela Jefferson how soon the credits would be sold, Doan said that the Tumwater School District is ready for the transaction while they are still talking with the Port and the Secretary of the State about the deal.

The remaining 21 credits would be available on the open market on a first-come-first-serve basis. Doan explained that this portion could be bought by nonprofit organizations or commercial entities looking to acquire mitigation credits.

The draft of the HCP would be available for public review by this March. City staff plan to conduct stakeholder meetings for the HCP before a final version of the plan is approved in 2024.


6 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Fraudguy

    I can scarcely think of something more dumb then setting aside land for a rat sanctuary. Oh, excuse me, gopher sanctuary. Nothing a few well placed Ball Pythons couldn't cure.

    Thursday, February 16, 2023 Report this

  • Southsoundguy


    Friday, February 17, 2023 Report this

  • FirstOtter

    Gophers are not rats. And while some folks think a gopher isn't worth saving, just remember this: That gopher habitat might just keep the state from condemning your property in order to tear down your home in order to stick an airport on it.

    Friday, February 17, 2023 Report this

  • warrenh50

    What's a Puget Western?

    Friday, February 17, 2023 Report this

  • AugieH

    Puget Western Inc.?

    Google it for enlightenment.

    Friday, February 17, 2023 Report this

  • JJmama

    I tried to officially report the comment below and reached a 404 error page....JOLT?

    Do you have a REAL reporting system, or just a show of it...?

    Here's thoughts on 'Fraudguy' comments below....

    Hugely insensitive, and suggesting ILLEGAL as well as inhumane and cruel activity to decimate an endangered species which already has a hard enough time finding human protections for it.

    This kind of comment deserves NO SPACE IN PRINT.

    This should be removed and given zero voice.

    JOLT allowing this kind of commentary is inappropriate and incendiary.

    Saturday, February 18, 2023 Report this