Letter to the Editor: Washington County commissioners seek to ram through ‘wish list’

Desert tortoise, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Pixabay, St. George News

OPINION — I attended Washington County’s open house on the proposed “Desert Tortoise Habitat Conservation Plan Expansion Act” for the full two hours (Wednesday), and it was very well attended.

There were sign-up sheets for those attending and comment cards that people could write on and drop into comment boxes. There were live tortoises, a Gila monster and display stations with the usual maps of the Red Cliffs tortoise reserve, northern corridor and Zone 6. Despite my request to a county attorney last week, there were no copies of the actual draft congressional legislation. And despite my request to the HCAC (Habitat Conservation Advisory Committee) the previous day, there was no map showing the location of the proposed western corridor in relation to Zone 6.

Read more: County officials propose legislation to expand tortoise habitat for northern corridor route

There was a county handout that confirmed my worst fears about this proposed legislation. As with Rep. Chris Stewart’s pending (federal) legislation, this new bill would force construction of the northern corridor and designate Zone 6 as a reserve addition. Existing high levels of recreational use in Zone 6 would continue, including OHV (off-highway vehicle) use.

The Habitat Conservation Plan, or HCP, would be renewed on the county’s biased terms for 25 years. The recently finalized Bureau of Land Management plans for both the Red Cliffs and Beaver Dam Wash national conservation areas would be amended to reflect everything the county wants, including on livestock grazing, federal water rights and utility development.

In short, this erroneously-titled legislation would put into federal statute virtually everything that the county commissioners want in terms of federal endangered species, federal lands and federal water rights issues in Washington County. Its enactment would be a huge victory for the county commissioners and a huge defeat for everyone who believes in fidelity to existing laws, science and transparent and meaningful public involvement processes.

The commissioners have asked the municipal bodies throughout the county to pass resolutions in the next month or so in support of their (proposed) legislation. And the commissioners will likely cite Wednesday night’s open house as a sufficient opportunity for public input, despite the lack of details, the absence of a key map and no public forum for the airing of different views.

Despite the county’s propaganda campaign, there is no need for this legislation to renew the HCP. That could and should be done through the normal process for HCP renewals under the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. The clear reasons that the county wants this legislation is so that it can avoid the normal process and ignore the concerns of BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service and the public. This is part of the larger pattern in Utah where state and local officials want to wrest control of federal lands and resources away from the federal agencies charged with managing them in the national interest.

In terms of next steps, I believe that the county commissioners will soon provide their draft legislation to the Utah congressional delegation. Chairman Rob Bishop will then likely move this bill through his authorizing committee in rapid GOP lockstep so that it can be brought to the House floor. Sens. Hatch and Lee will likely similarly try to move it fast through the U.S. Senate.

The strategy may be to get it far enough along so that it can then be quietly inserted into a large package of “must pass” legislation so that Democrats in the U.S. Senate may be reluctant to mount a filibuster. As such, the best hope to stop this Washington County legislation may be to carefully monitor its status in Congress, and to prepare Democratic senators for its potential arrival on the Senate floor (likely hidden in a voluminous tome proffered with almost no review time).

The Washington County commissioners recognize that, with the House, Senate and White House all in sympathetic GOP hands, this may be their best opportunity to ram their “wish list” through and enact it into federal statute. Their tactics are an example of why so many Americans have become cynical and lost faith in their leaders and democratic governance. We need to stop this legislation so that these despicable tactics are not rewarded and so that fidelity to law, science and public transparency are upheld.

I hope that this summary is helpful. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Submitted by RICHARD SPOTTS, St. George.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them; they do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News.

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Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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  • comments March 30, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    Unless these tortoises can come up with a few tens of millions $$$ to buy land to preserve themselves I’d say it’s game up. Hard to compete with the level of greed that goes on around here. Bye bye tortoises, you will soon be replaced by the sprawl of housing tracts and box stores $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  • holger March 30, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Well written, thank you.

  • PlanetU March 30, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    Thank you for this article. As usual they are a bunch of sneaky rat …
    Ed. ellipsis

  • utahdiablo March 30, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    “Very well attended”….and Ramming through what Washington county commissioners want regardless of what the end means to “we the people”, the citizens of Washington County Utah….you only think you have a voice now, as you all have been sold out to the Big Money Greed Factory….in a few years you will not be able to enjoy anything without countless traffic jambs, endless lines of tourists, and all the taxes you will all be paying for continued infastructure to meet the endless demand of more and more people moving here….there could be a moratorium on building permits, if the public outcry was loud enough, but nope, just a slight whisper as the beautiful red rocks and hills we cherished are bulldozed down and paved over to build more and more homes and condos…..enjoy your future

  • GuySmiley March 30, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    This well written article demonstrates how the government (no longer our government) is less and less for the people by the people. It appears the only thing which will stop this tyranny and corruption is a revolution!

    • PatriotLiberal March 30, 2018 at 10:57 pm

      Or you could just stop voting for the same people over and over again.

      Just sayin’.

  • statusquo March 30, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    The commissioners were elected by the citizens to make these kinds of decisions. If you don’t like what they are doing use your vote to tell them so.

    It seems that EVERYONE IS AN EXPERT these days on everything from traffic engineering (northern corridor) to water management (lake Powel pipeline) to wildlife management (tortoise habitat) to natural resource usage (Bears Ears). Really? Our government has people in place to make these kinds of decisions – not every mom and pop with an opinion!

    • Death Valley March 31, 2018 at 6:47 am

      “Our government has people in place, blah blah…” I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this uttered around here.
      You certainly picked an appropriate user name. Status quo is why we have this mess, to begin with. Time to vote people running for office who share your views OUT.

  • Carpe Diem March 31, 2018 at 8:06 am

    California, here we come! :/

  • beacon April 3, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    Statusquo commented that there are experts in government who are capable of making decisions regarding the Northern Corridor and other contentious issues. Unfortunately, those “experts” are controlled by others in government who may not be experts themselves (and probably are not!) but who were voted into office by people who don’t completely understand these issues and have not studied them in great detail or any detail for that matter. For example, there are many transportation experts who are working on the Northern Corridor issue but they are directed by elected officials who have decided – whether on good data or not – that we must have the Northern Corridor. Actually, those citizens such as I who actually read the Draft 2015 Regional Transportation Plan (did you Statusquo?) found that the proposed road will not relieve congestion on Bluff Street and St. George Blvd. but will cost taxpayers around $110 million dollars. There are many citizens including those who are on Conserve Southwest Utah’s board who have studied these issues for over ten years and have substantial backgrounds in engineering and other areas. They are better educated than many of the leaders who are promoting these controversial projects. Many who are promoting them are basically just politicians and some are developers and politicians! That’s a very bad combination!

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