Could a pesky rodent delay building a road to Yelm High?

This pocket gopher has caused headaches for people trying to develop their land in Pierce and Thurston counties.

YELM, Wash -- The Mazama pocket gopher may have struck again.

The little critters, found only in Thurston and Pierce counties, are listed as a threatened species. And that has thrown a monkey wrench into some development plans.

The gopher may now play a part on an access road that could be built to Yelm High School to improve traffic.

If an extensive environmental study is needed because of the gopher, that road could be delayed.

Says Brian Wharton, the Yelm school superintendent, "If the study and the work with the city comes back that we need to do a gopher study, that will create a problem."

The gopher has been at the center of a fight for years between the county government and land owners like Joe Aguilar.

"You want to do something for you family. Like in my case I wanted to move my mobile home over here and then they said I couldn't do it because of endangered species."

Land owners say expensive studies have blocked them from using their land. The school district could face having to do the same expensive studies.

The schools will find out in September whether it has to do additional studies.

J.W. Foster, the mayor of Yelm, sympathizes with land owners.

"It makes it better for everyone to have a nice clean environment and habitat for all, but the process that we have to put people through to develop their property is just to onerous right now."

He's hoping the County Council will speed up the process.

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