Dear Washington County Residents,
Thank you to all of you who participated in the open house on March 28th. It was great to be able to talk to so many of you about the plans we have been working on to expand and renew the Desert Tortoise Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). We have reviewed your written comments to see what we need to adjust.
We would like to quickly address some of the more common questions that came up at the open house for those who were unable to attend.
- Will Zone 6 cut off recreation access?
No, Zone 6 will not cut off recreation access. In fact, zone 6 will be managed for recreation along with preserving sensitive species. Creating Zone 6 is the best way to ensure that recreation access is not lost in that area.
- Why would the County expand the HCP?
Expanding the HCP makes sense for several reasons.
- The largest negative impact on the tortoises in the Reserve was the result of a wildfire. Having a zone that is not connected to the rest of the reserve helps ensure that one event won’t affect all of the Reserve.
- Recent studies have shown that the tortoise density in the Zone 6 area is higher than anyone previously thought. High tortoise densities make this area ideal for tortoise protection.
- SITLA owns much of what would become Zone 6. Without Zone 6, that land will be developed. Development of the SILTA land would end some recreation and cut off access to other trails.
- In order to build the northern corridor, the County has to be able to mitigate for any negative impacts within the Reserve. Zone 6 provides the necessary mitigation.
- Washington County takes seriously the responsibility to recovery the desert tortoise.
- Why is the County pursuing legislation?
The county is still actively pursuing administrative solutions with BLM and USFWS at the same time as this legislation. This bill is just one of the tools the county is using to ensure that the HCP continues to benefit the desert tortoise, that county residents have utility access, and that the northern corridor can be built to keep traffic flowing.
- Is this bill a land swap?
No, the bill is not a land swap. An inaccurate story has been circulating that Zone 6 is a land swap so that land in the current HCP can be developed. No land is being swapped. Zone 6 is an addition to the Reserve. No land in the Reserve is being developed. No title is changing hands.
- Why is the HCP renewal tied to the Northern corridor?
Originally the County planned on renewing the HCP agreement and then working separately on the northern corridor. The HCP agreement expired in 2016, and the County has been working closely with BLM and USFWS since 2015 on the necessary steps to renew our agreement. As part of these discussions, the federal agencies suggested that it would be more effective to deal with the northern corridor at the same time as the renewal. It makes more sense to deal with all of the issues at once rather than dividing our attention.
Below we are providing transportation information that has guided the County’s position on the need for a northern transportation route, the maps that were used in the open house, and a summary of the contents of the draft legislation. The purpose of providing this information is to give all of you a chance to understand what we are doing to maintain the lifestyle that we all enjoy here in Washington County.
Washington County Commissioners
— circa 2018