Conservation Groups Act to Save Douglas County Pocket Gopher

Sprawl on Colorado's Front Range is destroying last habitat fragments


Jay Tutchton, Staff Attorney, Earthjustice, (303) 871-6034, cell (303)-916-8949


Jacob Smith, Executive Director, Center for Native Ecosystems, (970) 527-8993


Nicole Rosmarino, Ph.D., Endangered Species Coord., Forest Guardians, (505) 426-8403

Two conservation groups today filed an emergency Endangered Species Act listing petition for the Douglas County pocket gopher, a native mammal facing imminent extinction. The pocket gopher is thought to survive in only five populations, all in this metropolitan Denver county. Uncontrolled sprawl in Douglas County has brought this gopher to the brink of extinction, as its habitat has been paved over for parking lots, car dealerships, and other developments. The conservation groups are seeking to list the pocket gopher as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Immediate emergency protection is essential to ensure its survival.

“Uncontrolled sprawl on Colorado’s Front Range is destroying our quality of life,” said Jay Tutchton of Earthjustice. “As the very last fragments of natural open space are lost we are also on the verge of driving a species to extinction in our own backyard.”

Pocket gophers play an important role in the environment, maintaining soil health and serving as prey for a host of other wildlife. “As we destroy the last of our open space on Colorado’s Front Range, we are watching the hawks, eagles, and other wildlife disappear,” explained Nicole Rosmarino, Endangered Species Coordinator for Forest Guardians. “Protecting the habitat of this pocket gopher will mean protecting habitat for all these other species while protecting our dwindling open space for water quality, green space, and scenery as well.”

The groups point to the decline of the pocket gopher as a symptom of uncontrolled growth. “Growth on the Front Range needs to be more thoughtful,” noted Erin Robertson, staff biologist for Center for Native Ecosystems. “By protecting the pocket gopher we’ll also be protecting other important values, like open space and wildlife habitat.”

“Although Bill Murray, in Caddyshack, was unable to kill his golf course gophers even with dynamite,” observed Tutchton, “uncontrolled sprawl in the Denver metropolitan area is about to forever destroy the Douglas County pocket gopher.”

A bipartisan poll conducted only a year ago by Talmey-Drake Research and Strategy Inc. and Public Opinion Strategies overwhelmingly found growth to be the number one issue of concern to Colorado voters. Fifty-two percent of voters surveyed identified growth as the top problem facing Colorado. Coloradans are increasingly concerned that uncontrolled growth is negatively affecting their daily lives, causing traffic jams, overcrowded schools, and disappearing open space and vistas. Better growth management is also essential because of limited water supplies and the ongoing drought.

The citizen listing petition initiates a process where the Fish and Wildlife Service will formally consider designating the Douglas County pocket gopher as an endangered species. The Service then has 90 days to respond with an initial determination about the status of the species, and must make a final determination about granting full protection within 12 months. The Service can immediately establish the short-term emergency protection requested by the conservation groups.

More information, a Frequently Asked Questions sheet, the ESA listing petition, and downloadable, high-resolution photographs are available at More information about CNE and Forest Guardians is available at and


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