High Country News is an online and print environmentalist rag based out of Paonia, Colorado. An article in its recent edition reveals that last month the US Fish and Wildlife Service has withdrawn its opposition to a proposed development named Villages at Vigneto that will be located along the San Pedro River near the town of Benson in Cochise County, Arizona.
Construction on the project will be starting by year’s end. According to the Benson News-Sun, the Tuscan-themed development will take up 13,000 acres and entail the construction of almost 30,000 homes during a 20 year period. This done in hopes of attracting about 70,000 new residents.
High Country News obtained a 26-page letter through a Freedom of Information Act request. It’s article’s author claims that the project’s development company, El Dorado Holdings, Inc, and the US Army Corp of Engineers pressured the US Wildlife Service to back down and issue the permit needed for the development to move forward.
The license would allow the developer to erect building pads and fill in 51 acres of washes and roads that are geared to not impact any endangered species in the area. However, what is telling is the article reveals that US Fish and Wildlife Service would not issue the permit since the area in question sustained nearly 400 species of migratory birds, would have appreciable effects on area wildlife and the agency cited substantial scientific research warning of risks to rare species such as the jaguar and yellow-bellied cuckoo.
Blame for the agency giving in was laid at the feet of President Donald Trump stating the US Fish and Wildlife Services reversal reflects his continuous instructions to federal agencies to roll back environmental protections to facilitate business interests.
Never mind, of course, that this mentality completely ignores the human need of housing in order to live. Admittedly its a luxurious development that may well encompass high priced homes. However, it will add to the quality of life for the Benson area and the residents who buy in to the project.
Then there is this snide, condascending comment from Karen Fogas, executive director of Tucson Audubon who said:I think that the turtles are putting their heads in the shell. It’s not likely any agency is going to be proactive in that climate.
In other words what Fogas is saying is that it was great when US Fish and Wildlife were doing the green’s bidding. But now that they are not, they are seriously misguided and don’t know what they are doing. How dare human beings infect this pristeen area with their presence!
Rest assured lawsuits will be coming soon since the HCN article lays the groundwork saying legal experts are concerned and the US Fish and Wildlife is acting contradictory. This despite the fact that the author indirectly admits that, before the White House changed hands, the federal bureaucracy purposely held up the Benson housing development (and, most likely other projects) citing an alleged threat to endangered species.