An SDCP Cost Analysis or Horse Feathers - Conservation Plan won't
stand up under federal scrutiny without an independent economic impact
study, decides board of supervisors
by Glynn A. Burkhardt
president , Pima County Coalition For Multiple Use
Pima County Arizona - The Pima County Board of Supervisors, over
the objection of many in the local green movement have finally decided
the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan will not stand up under federal
scrutiny without an independent Economic Impact Study. This study
is to determine the detrimental effects the SDCP will have on taxes,
jobs, the residents and business community in Tucson and Pima County.
Donít kid yourselves about the positive aspects of the SDCP unless
you consider your cost of living rapidly rising and your quality of
life dropping in proportion and speed in your best interests.
After hours of discussion a committee consisting of county staffers,
development, ranching and environmental interests recommended a company
and the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to hire ESI Corp. of
Phoenix. ESI Corp. which will be paid $250,000, will have 16 weeks
to complete the entire economic study.
Now however concern is rapidly growing over the cost and time restrictions
for this economic impact study and how the board reached this nice
convenient figure. The cost to the county of $250,000 for 16 weeks
appears to be extreme and the time allocated deliberately restrictive
We need to break these numbers down. $250,000 divided by 16 weeks
comes to $15,625.00 per week. Now we divide this by 5 working days
per week and have a cost of $3,125.00 per day. We divide this by 8
hours per day and we come up with the ESI Corp. being paid $390.62
Why is the Pima County Board of Supervisors willing to pay this excessive
amount of money then restrict the time allowed ESI for the study?
We need to find out how many personnel and what resources ESI Corp.
is committing to this job. Does the management feel ESI Corp. will
be able to responsibly complete the study and publish the report in
the time frame allocated by the county? We need to know if there is
sufficient and true scientific information available to complete a
realistic cost analysis of the proposed SDCP, all with this 16 week
period. Finally, we need to have made public the terms of the contract,
including incentives, penalties and potential extensions which could
cause the study to be rushed or delayed and information misused, censored,
misconstrued or deliberately withheld by any parties in possession
or with knowledge of information generated by present or past activities
related to the SDCP.
A good illustration of this possible misuse of information is in
the proposed Pygmy Owl Habitat proposal and the information claimed
to have been used to reach the figure of 1.2 million acres for 18
birds, with much of the proposed habitat in Pima County.
More information is leaking out on the lack of evidence and the possible
falsification of records and documentation concerning over 80% of
the critical habitat proposed. Much of the "documentation"
was performed by inexperienced biology students who "volunteered"
and were hauled out into the desert in buses (up to 100 at a time),
placed in heavy stands of Jumping Cholla, Cat Claw, Crucifixion Thorn,
Palo Verde, Iron Wood, Mesquite and other unpleasant desert growth
(not to mention the Rattlers, Killer Bees and very aggessive ants)
and instructed to search. Several Pygmy Owl sightings were reported.
However, these reports were never followed up on for confirmation
of the existence of Pygmy Owls on huge tracts of land and now the
USFWS is fighting to keep these supposed locations confidential.
This begins to smell of the Lynx fiasco which took place in the Pacific
Northwest last year. In that case several Federal officials were found
to have criminally "planted" Lynx hair with the intent to
have huge areas declared critical Lynx habitat.
Interestingly, Audrey Hudson of the New York Times (her story is below)
who broke the Lynx hair story has begun to take an interest in the
Pygmy Owl controversy. Hmmmm maybe Horse Feathers next?
Pima County Coalition For Multiple Use
For Information Contact:
Glynn A. Burkhardt
Pima County Coalition For Multiple Use
9100 E. Indian Hills Rd.
Letters to the Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Managing Editor Francis B. Coombs Jr. email@example.com
Plan to set aside land in Arizona for owls slammed
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The federal government wants to set aside 1.2 million acres of public
and private Arizona land as critical habitat for 18 endangered pygmy
owls, a move critics say threatens development of the land for private
business and public recreation. ]
Designating the Tucson land as a critical habitat for the tiny creatures,
which span 6 inches and weigh 2 pounds, is necessary because they
live in an area facing rapid growth and development, said Maeveen
Behan, project director for Pima County.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's call for the land to be set aside
is required by the endangered species act.Pygmy owls were added to
the government's list of protected species in 1997. Area residents,
ranchers and home builders say it's a government effort to stop development
and recreation there.
Glynn A. Burkhardt, president of the Pima County Coalition for Multiple
Use, called the pygmy owl "the most expensive animal alive."
"It will be devastating to Pima County to have a large acreage
taken out of use to be used as critical habitat," Mr.Burkhardt
Pima County is 6 million acres in size. The 1.2 million acres would
give each owl an average of more than 66,000 acres, according to the
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the economic loss from
the designation will top $108 million over the next 10 years.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) called that a low
estimate that failed to account for the impact
it will have on property values. They estimate the acreage loss will
increase the cost of available residential property by as much as
$12,000 per home, pricing some buyers out of the market.
Ranching, mining, farming, commercial development, and recreation
such as hunting, camping and hiking would be banned in the critical
habitat, Mr. Burkhardt said. The designation would also affect school
funding, he said, because state property is held in trust, and proceeds
from leases and sales are used for education.
"If they want to develop a trail or recreation facility they
would have to do consultation to be sure not to impact any habitat
important to the owl," Miss Behan said. Developers also would
have to buy four times the size of land they wanted and commit it
Doc Lane, president of the Arizona Cattlemen's Association, said some
ranchers also will unfairly be put out of business.
"Apparently, what they think the cows do is run around to find
trees with pygmy owls in it and then the cows tear down the trees,"
Mr. Lane said.
The owls are abundant in Mexico, but not so in the northern tip of
their habitat in Pima County, which runs along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"It is in danger of becoming extinct in the United States despite
the fact that all it has to do is fly above the four-wire fence into
Mexico and they will no longer be extinct," Mr. Lane said.
"It's the classic logic and misuse of the Endangered Species
Act. Environmental groups that wanted to have some way to hamper people
who build houses and have ranches wanted to find a little creature
they could use to damage the industry and this is the one they picked,"
Mr. Lane said.
The habitat designation is being challenged by the NAHB, which took
the federal agency to court to force the disclosure of the owls' locations.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered the
Fish and Wildlife Service to release its data disclosing locations,
but the federal agency is planning to appeal.
NAHB spokesmen said their concern is that the federal agency will
drag the appeal past the public comment period, which ends Feb. 27.
"How can anyone in the public determine what land is needed to
protect a species when the government won't even tell us where the
owl lives?" said Duane Desiderio, NAHB staff vice president for
legal affairs. "I think they are holding back the data because
it is not the best scientific data available and does not ultimately
justify putting aside 1.2 million acres of land, but we can't make
that determination until we see the data," Mr. Desiderio said.
"The government has never produced any valid science for its
decision-making," Mr. Desiderio said.
A Fish and Wildlife spokesman said locations of the owls are being
kept secret to protect the species and private property owners.
"We are concerned that it is such a rare species, birders tend
to flock to the location to try and get pictures and often times there
are cases of harassment of the owls," said Fish and Wildlife
spokesman Scott Richardson. Federal officials are also concerned bird-watchers
would trespass on private property, and owners would be less likely
to cooperate with researchers.
The proposed habitat in Tucson would be nearly as large as the spotted
owl's habitat in California, where 1.4 million acres were put off-limits
after the bird was declared endangered in 1989. The move devastated
the local economy.