For two years, the Thurston County Commission has chosen junk science over citizen input

            After reaching a six-month expiration date, the Thurston County Board of Commissioners took up the business of renewing the Critical Areas Ordinance.  A public hearing was held on Thursday, January 20th.  For the fourth time in two years, dozens of homeowners came out against the ordinance.

            There seemed almost a feeling of camaraderie among many of the dozens of citizens who came to speak against the ordinance.  Many of them were returning for their fourth time to tell the commissioners why they didn’t want the Critical Areas Ordinance as proposed by Commissioner Sandra Romero.  The ordinance, according to Romero, is required by the Growth Management Act.  Romero, a former Olympia council member and board member of Futurewise (formerly 1000 Friends of Washington), claims that the private property rights of homeowners should be subordinated to the white oak, the Mazama pocket rodent, and the checker-spot butterfly.  Homeowners claim that the ordinance takes huge portions of their property out of use, while taxing them for full use.  Commissioner Romero did not attend to hear the dozens of concerned citizens airing a grievance that has been going on for years.

Only two people testified in support of the ordinance, expressing only general support.  Neither of them based their argument on science or merits of the ordinance.  Sharron Coontz and Walt Jorgensen both live outside the affected areas.

            Biologist Brian Combs voiced concerns that the language was not precise enough to achieve the goals of the commission.  According to Combs, “There are a lot of things that need to be clarified about the way the prairie areas are delineated, and some of the vagaries about whether it can be restored.”

            Activist Justin Kover, a member of the Nisqually Tribe, spoke about the history of Thurston County, and how government intervention destroyed the prairie.  He called the history of government environmentalism in Washington, “a history of well-intentioned mistakes.”  He spoke of the events surrounding the 1971 Judge Boldt decision, and compared the Critical Areas ordinance to the illegal salmon fishing moratorium imposed by the State of Washington.   “This ordinance is a job-killing ordinance based on science that will soon be obsolete, and encumbers the property rights of tax-paying homeowners while big corporate developers can buy their way in,” said Kover. 

            Some citizens said they would take their struggle to the campaign trail.  “At one point in time, you entered public office with the intention of doing good.  When did you decide to change and harm so many people?” said Lacey resident Mark Kelly.  “You’ve inspired me to doorbell far more homes than I’d intended before this.” 

            Dozens of citizens spoke for 90 minutes against the ordinance.

            South county resident Vivian Eason said some scrub oak were being counted as white oak, while never having seen a Mazama pocket rodent on her property.  “I can’t refinance my house because you have lowered the value of my property.  My property value goes down, but my taxes never go down.  It’s not right.”

 Glen Morgan, a tree farmer from Tenino, pointed out that by willfully harming the value of people’s property while taxing them for full use the county was opening itself up to further litigation.  He stated he is organizing the coalition that will bring suit against the county on that issue.  “Commissioners were warned by staff, and they ignored all the warnings,” said Morgan.

            On Tuesday, January 25, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to extend the Critical Areas Ordinance for another six months.  They continue work with the plan to make the ordinance permanent this spring.  In spite of all the public comment, all the facts, and all the science, they ignored the people.

“It’s just like the spotted owl all over again,” said one woman.  “In twenty years, after our land is took and our jobs are gone, they’re going to say, ‘Oops.  We were wrong.  Sorry’”.


This post is so bad its not even wrong


"job-killing" ordinance

Gee.  Where have I heard that kind of language before.

So tell me, Mrs. Romero...

"When did you decide to change and harm so many people?"

And also, when did you stop beating your wife?

Thanks Chaim

Here's another nugget of joy from County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela:

4:22:  "We literally have to weed out the evergreens, because the forest will take over, and the prairie is gone!"

-Justin Kover

You want to talk about the environmental science

Your out-of-context quotations and insinuations of bad science just aren't working. 

Is there...

...a particular scientific journal I can read that covers "science that will soon be obsolete"? Perhaps "Crystal Ball Monthly"?

I believe

that journal is entitled "Roger Ailes daily briefing."

Actual science

In a ecosystem without human activity, prairies continue to exist in part because frequent small wildfires burn off any encroaching young trees, allowing the grass and other prairie plants to quickly regrow. In the absence of wildfires (that is, when humans suppress them), those trees grow large and shade out the prairie vegetation, replacing prairie with forest. This appears to be happening in south Thurston County. This process (along with the more familiar process of losing undeveloped land due to building houses and such) is leading to the reduction and potential disappearance of a rare (for the Puget Sound basin, at least) type of habitat, along with the rare species of wildlife and plants that rely on that habitat.

We know all this because of...say it with me, people!...SCIENCE!!!

Actual scientists...

....have been protesting the delineation of the prairie soil zone since this ordinance was first proposed.  Two cared enough to testify at the 20 Jan public hearing.  If you like, I can send you some video of their testimony.  I am certain at least one is more reliable than a crystal ball, since he has been qualified by WDFW to provide consulting services regarding the Mazama pocket gopher.

Always good to hear from you Matthew!

-Justin Kover

The actual point...

His factually-supported explanation of why the prairie soil zone is improperly delineated would be a valuable contribution to the debate.

Your pulling a quote from Valenzuela out of context to try to make her look stupid is not.

Tranparency in government

Dear Oly blog,


Why have the County Comissioners stopped using "The best available Science", when refering to the Thurston County Critical Areas Ordinance?


Why does the Federal Government refuse to place the Mazama pocket gopher, (rodent), on the endangered or threatened species list?


Why are these rodents still being trapped and released all over the county? Word is that they are being released at Wolfhaven where they are eaten by wolves.


Thurston County Property owners are good stewards of their farms and ranches, these arbitrary restrictions cause loss of use and value of their land.


Jethro Tull








Some answers

1. Who says they aren't? So far the objections are coming from a handful of interested parties.

2. State can and often do implement stricter environmental guidelines than the Feds. Something about the 10th Amendment you Righties are always banging on about.

3. Yea right. And Bigfoot is stomping the little buggers to death.

4. If they were such 'good stewards' then there wouldn't be an issue. The issue is not agricultural use, it's subdividing and building houses.

To answer your question: 1.

To answer your question:

1.  Scientiest are saying that.  These studies that we are using came from Fish and Wildlife who got them from government grant funded environmental special interest groups headed by mostly ex-state employees.   There is no peer review and other scientific standards are not being used.  There is currently legislation in place this year to make them start using real science again. So if you want to talk about a handful of interested parties, look at yourself.

Additionally I would say this:  50 to 1 citizens against at the commissioners meeting.  Who is the handful?

40,000 parcels of land designated buffer zones for the "important habitat" that are being taxed at the rate of "developable" Is 40,000 a handful? .........

Which has lead to a class action lawsuit.  I dont know about in your world, but in this one, class action lawsuits usually involve a little bit more than a handful of interested parties.

This issue has never, nor ever will be put to a vote because the majority of people are vehemetly against it.  If it is so popular and only a handful of interested parties are for the prairie ordinance, why did the commissioners hold an emergency meeting at 2:30 in the afternoon on a Wednesday to extend the ordinance...that has been in place for 5 years.  What is the emergency?

2.  You misinterped the question.  His meaning is that if they are so rare and so endangered and so vital to the planets existence and America's furture, why has the fed not listed them.  He is not questioning the legality, just the necessity.  btw, since when you liberals read the Consitution?  

3.  This is a non responsive answer by you.  A favorite of liberals.  What are they doing with them?  I don't know.  Maybe we should find out instead of making swarmy and non responsive answers.  (him and you)

4.  I like the way you make and then refute your point at the same time.  I can be a good steward of my land, but if government does not do its job, which it has not by your own admission at the end of your sentenace.  

Lastly, and I do not mean this as an insult,  you should study more about an issue instead of just blindly following one party's position all the time.  I appreciate that you are interested in politics.  We need more people doing that, but be skeptical.  The history of politics shows that politicans are very rarely ever interested in the citizenry unless it helps their cause.  

Plato said over 3000 years ago about governement that is has never undertake a project that they did not profess to be for the good of the people.  

I have read over 200 history books and if I had to pick one general theme, that would be it.  That and follow the money if you want to know why something did or did not happen.  













When you write slurs like

 btw, since when you liberals read the Consitution? [sic]  the conversation is over.

Some real responses would be nice

1.  If the "Best science" is not being used, that implies you know of a "best science."  Well, what is it?  Otherwise you are just leveling an unsupported criticism of the science being used.

2. Why don't the feds list the Mazama PG?  I don't know, probably because it doesn't meet their criteria.  But why is the federal listing status relevant here?  This is about a local ecosystem, not the endangered status of a specific species. 

3. Why are these rodents still being trapped and released all over the county?  Not sure why this is relevant either, except as a way to introduce the scandalous gopher murders at Wolfhaven. 

4. Thurston County Property owners are good stewards of their farms and ranches, these arbitrary restrictions cause loss of use and value of their land.  Both may be perfectly true.  But this isn't about being a good steward of your own property.  It's about being good stewards of an important cultural and ecological resource.

Support the premise to this question

Why have the County Comissioners stopped using "The best available Science", when refering to the Thurston County Critical Areas Ordinance?

You and others here are impuning the science, but I've yet to see any concrete evidence backing up your claim.  What is it?


Does everyone forget that humans have been here in the PacNW as long as any of the trees growing today?

This whole region was under 1 mile of ice less than 11,000 years before present...


...the prairie is a niche that changes as the climate changes.




The prairie also changes according to human activity

Natural fires and intentional burns preserved the prairies over time.  Now human fire prevention efforts and develpment allow non-prairie species to encroach on established prairie.  It's not just a climate thing. 

species spread regardless

I have done this work (prairie inventory & restoration) through-out WA & the US, and I agree (of course) that this is not just a climate thing.

Compared to climate change though this is all just background noise.

(especially Kover)

Climate Changes