Monday, March 28, 2016

Judge agrees to delay over federal land plans in Washington County, Utah

The Bureau of Land Management has been granted an extension by a federal judge to finalize its land use plans for Washington County so the two can try to reach a compromise over a contested northern corridor transportation route. The federal agency can miss the court-ordered June 30 deadline for its resource management plan and instead shoot for Dec. 31 in hopes the additional six months will result in the BLM implementing changes sought by the county. U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups granted the extension last week after a congressional subcommittee convened a rare oversight hearing last January in St. George. At the hearing, the BLM was blasted over its draft plan the county said ignored its desires. The panel included participation by Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Chris Stewart and Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and was chaired by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-California, chairman of the federal lands subcommittee, who said the BLM seemed to be the "poster child of bad behavior." At the time, Washington County elected officials said the plan was so damaging to their region's ability to grow they were contemplating a lawsuit if the BLM didn't make substantive modifications. In an effort to address some of those concerns, Washington County leaders have been meeting with the BLM over the past couple of months and hope to arrive at some compromise, said Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner. The county supported the extension for the BLM to produce a finalized plan — with a new deadline for the end of 2016 set in a motion granted last week by Waddoups. The parties are required to submit status reports to the court on their progress. James Doyle, a private landowner who has 274 acres locked up in the Red Cliffs Desert Tortoise Reserve covered by the BLM's land use plans, opposed the delay. Doyle's attorney, Brett Ekins, said his client has never been compensated by the federal government for his land being rendered useless and finalization of the plan might move along the process...more

 At one point, Doyle owned 2,000 acres that he finalized the plans and permits for development of an upscale golf course and surrounding community...Ekins said that Doyle, 78, has had to sell all but 274 acres of his property to meet the debts of creditors and he doesn't want to wait another decade or more for compensation."It has been 25 years now," Ekins argued in a brief filed before the court.  
An example of one of the costs of the ESA that's never tallied up.

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