Point/Counterpoint letters: St. George resident, mayor face off on Desert Tortoise Habitat Conservation Plan Expansion Act

Composite stock image, St. George News

OPINION — The following letters were submitted to St. George News in regards to an upcoming agenda item on Thursday’s St. George City Council Meeting. The first is from a St. George resident to Mayor Jon Pike and St. George City Council members. It is followed by a response from Pike.


In opposition

Dear Mr. Mayor and Saint George City Council members:

As a long-time Saint George resident, I am writing to request that you please oppose and vote against the resolution that is agenda item #10 for your April 5th council meeting.

This resolution would support Washington County’s proposed Congressional legislation, misleadingly-titled “Desert Tortoise Habitat Conservation Plan Expansion Act.”

This resolution should not be approved for the following reasons:

1- The draft legislation was not available for review at the county’s related “open house” last week nor is it available now for public review. It is inappropriate to pass a resolution in support of legislation that no one has apparently seen.

This would be tantamount to giving the county a “blank check” for whatever they decide to put into the legislation, and how they wish to convert their vague talking points into actual statutory language. When it comes to legislation, the Devil is in the details, and no one has seen those details.

2- The summary or results from the public comments submitted at the county’s related “open house” last week are not available. If the city approves a resolution before that public input is available, it would disrespect those who submitted comments with the expectation that their elected officials would consider those comments before taking action.

3- There is no need for Congressional legislation to achieve the county’s purposes. The county is already negotiating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) toward renewal of the HCP, and it knows that such renewals normally occur through an existing process under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The county may or already has submitted a right-of-way application for the northern corridor to BLM, which likewise can be considered through the normal environmental review and public involvement process. This proposed legislation is clearly intended to circumvent existing law, remove opportunities for objective environmental analysis and meaningful public involvement, override any FWS or BLM concerns, and simply ram through what the county wants.

4- The legislation would force construction of the four-lane northern corridor highway through the Red Cliffs Tortoise Reserve and BLM Red Cliffs NCA in violation of the current HCP and BLM NCA plan. Aside from destroying and fragmenting high quality tortoise habitat, this highway would harm the beautiful view shed north of the city, which is an integral part of maintaining our high quality of life.

Moreover, I understand that the traffic model that has been used to arguably justify the northern corridor has not been available to the public nor provided for an independent validation.

5- The legislation would establish a Zone 6 purported “mitigation area” with heavy continuing recreational (including OHV) uses and with a future western corridor highway running nearby or through it, and notwithstanding that the tortoises in that area should already receive protection under existing law and BLM plan decisions;

6- The legislation would amend the new BLM Red Cliffs and Beaver Dam Wash NCA plans to get what the county could not accomplish through the normal planning – NEPA process.

In short, I believe that this proposed legislation constitutes an assault on the rule of law, science, existing environmental analysis and public involvement processes, and federal lands and resources that belong to all Americans.

This legislation is obviously part of the highly controversial pattern in Utah whereby some state and local officials seek to wrest away control of federal lands and resources from the federal agencies charged with managing them in the national interest. Does the City of Saint George really want to align itself with this extreme position and these despicable anti-democratic tactics? I hope not.

If you have not already seen it, you may find my related Saint George News LTE at the web link below of interest.

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

Again, please oppose and vote against this resolution.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Written by RICHARD SPOTTS, St. George.


In response

Richard,

I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree on this issue. The path the county and affected cities are taking on this issue is precisely a legal process and completely in harmony with previous commitments, legal agreements, and even an act of Congress.

We have worked together with local, state and federal stakeholders — including Fish & Wildlife biologists— to create a win-win for the desert tortoise, other protected species, public lands access for hiking, biking and climbing, and for transportation.

While the final language of the planned habitat expansion bill isn’t yet available, a summary is. I will forward it to you in a separate email. I am very comfortable with the approach and I believe it will be very satisfying to most of our citizens and visitors to the area.

Thank you.

Submitted by JON PIKE, mayor of 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.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

 

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12 Comments

  • Cheryl April 5, 2018 at 11:20 am

    It would be wonderful if the rest of us could also review the material you were sending separately, Mr. Pike. All citizens have a right to know the intentions of the county in regard to highway development.

    Thank you.

  • beacon April 5, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    Not much of a reply, Mayor Pike. Perhaps you have more to back up your position and present facts to counter those of Mr. Spotts?

    • mesaman April 5, 2018 at 8:27 pm

      Rather than submit a comment for public sympathy or the opposite, why don’t you correspond directly with Mayor Pike. I felt his reply was adequate, by the way.

    • jaltair April 5, 2018 at 10:59 pm

      RICHARD SPOTTS – You’ve keyed in on some really great points. “mesaman” – if you think the Mayor is not reading these replies, think again!

      I agree the reply from Jon Pike Mayor isn’t a very good reply. It’s a “win-win” for developers and politicians who get supported by special interest, and it’s, to h**l with the tortoises!

      The developers only see money and they probably back people to get the needed votes. This city leaves a lot to be desired in the area of transparency and shows such disrespect for the people and land of this area.

      I will never back this mayor or anyone in City Council of St George who votes in favor of this plan. Please take note of that Mr. Mayor or council members who read these replies.

  • Brugh April 5, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    All in all…its not about tortoises…its more about the word reserve than the tortoises. Huge Aztec depictions lay upon the terrain in this whole area. The area I believe they want to destroy is SW of Winchester. Numerous depictions are scattered in this one area but one more important, the god of the underground. Its already known that lava tunnels exist under this whole area. The homeland city of the Aztec and the other clans that emerge from below to this world we now live in. From the Airforce war games, to the Airforce plane crashes in strategic places and even the events that happened at Mountain Meadows and not to mention the downwinders theory. It’s all related to keeping the founding of Montezumas Aztecs homeland, the city of “Aztlan”…just that…a fabled myth! Why? Probably because the description of this fabled city is true! As well as the majority, religion wise was found off gold plates that are tied to this culture…and they believe in a god, who is a shape shifting serpent. City of gold they say…gold repels radiation %100…a city made of gold that resides below us…everyone that lives here gets the radiation twice with whats reflected! All you need do is put down phones….go into the hills and open your eyes! All the evidence is there! Actually, I am wrong…most of the evidence is there. These unneeded excuses like this…has already defaced the important ones. Don’t fall for the lie!

    • comments April 5, 2018 at 10:32 pm

      cuckoo! cuckoo!

      ahem, that is, i’ve been meaning to set my cuckoo clock

      thx for the reminder.

      • Brugh April 6, 2018 at 9:31 am

        I agree with you …I am crazy! Being full blooded Navajo…its one of them “traits” your born with. Thank you for noticing.

        For the reminder, no problem! Just a lil tug on your control strings is all it takes to get ya up and at em! Btw….those worries you have…the ones that you lose sleep over…are legit!

  • biker11 April 6, 2018 at 6:11 am

    This Mayor gives numerous responses like this. I went to a meeting with him and a candidate late last year and Mayor Pike was not forthcoming, everything revolving around this Mayor is clouded in secrecy. He won by about 3000 votes out of about 8,000 people who voted .What that says to me is not enough people in SG care about who runs their city.

    At the meeting we took a pledge to the United States of America, BUT we couldn’t ask any questions. I will not be attending any more so called meetings.

    • comments April 6, 2018 at 1:23 pm

      the mayor is owned by developer and other business interests. it’s pretty typical. I don’t even know if a hypothetical democrat would be much different when so much $$$ is involved.

  • utahdiablo April 6, 2018 at 8:51 am

    The funny thing here folks is that you all “Think” you have a say as to the future Highway and LP pipeline….these Good Ol’ Boys know much better as to what ya’ll need…now go back to being sheep

  • Waid April 6, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    The St. George mayor, the city council, the planning commission, the county commissioners, and the county land use board are wholly owned subsidiaries of the Chamber of Commerce. If one of their developer buddies/relatives sees a way to make money by trampling on public lands, endangered species, the environment, ethics, and laws, they are happy to lend their support. On the other hand, what desert tortoise wouldn’t want a noisy, polluting freeway running through the middle of its backyard in order for a few wealthy people to save 5 minutes on their trip between The Ledges and I-15? Oh, and those inconsequential few hundreds of millions of dollars that will be spent to finance and build the northern corridor — more largesse for family and friends! It’s all good!

    Thank you Richard Spotts for a very well written letter. Unfortunately, making money is what everything in Washington County politics will continue to be about as long as local and state government is controlled by good, old-fashioned greed! It’s American Capitalism at its finest!

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