Public Comment for the Fall 2009 HCP
September 16, 2009
Benton County Library
I would like to start off by thanking the tax payers of Benton County for being such good stewards of our lands. We have some of the most educated and considerate people when it comes to the environment. I particularly would like to thank companies like Starker Forest, Thompson Timber Company, Holiday Tree Farms, just to name a few who look after the environment in their every day operations.
I would also like to explain what Federal, State and Local taxes have in common. IT’S YOUR MONEY!!! Just because it is a Federal or State grant doesn’t change the fact that this plan has wasted almost a million dollars of your taxes. This money would have been better spent on economic development to bring down the high rate of unemployment in Benton County.
I have reviewed the Benton County Prairie Species Habitat Conservation Plan and it is my opinion the plan has many flaws. It is also my opinion that this plan should be ended and put away as a bad experiment. To quote the plan from Chapter 1 page 5 paragraph 4, “The County is not required by law to obtain an incidental take permit from the USFWS; it is only required by law to comply with the ESA.” First of all for the public USFWS is U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and ESA is the Federal Endangered Species Act. To simplify the requirement of Benton County is to say to someone wanting to develop, such as building a house on their own land, “you need to receive a permit from Fish and Wildlife if you are in an area where there are listed endangered species. This process will still be in place even if this nearly one million-dollar project does pass the scrutiny of the citizens of Benton County.
To quote the plan: “Benton County has taken the lead to preserve some of the remaining prairie habitat…” “To achieve a lasting legacy…” We do not need a lasting legacy. We need leaders who will support our economy, stand up for our industries and be proactive. We do not need to take the lead we need to slow down as the economy has done and protect the valuable resources that have allowed this great county to be known as some of the best timber, Christmas trees, grass seed, timber products, educational research, and the home of great companies like Hewlett Packard.
This plan is going way beyond the requirements from ESA. Our Commissioners would also like to protect several candidates species that may be endangered some day. How about listing these in the plan; jobs, crops, industry?
Also please read between the lines on Chapter 1 page 18 last paragraph on who is also involved with this take permit. One is the Clean Water Act. You need to read what proposed changes the Federal Government has in mind for the renewal of this act. I encourage you to research the proposed changes.
Part of the HCP is for Benton County to purchase even more land. The commissioners intend to buy up right of ways. I will quote Chapter 3 page 35, last paragraph. “As a conservation and mitigation measure for Fender’s blue butterfly, Benton proposes acquisition of conservation easements on 20-24 ha (50-60 acres) of lands containing high quality occupied Fender’s blue butterfly habitat.” The Draft Benton County Prairie Conservation Strategy on page 54 states under Habitat Acquisition “Habitat acquisition is an important conservation measure that ensures long-term protection of a site. Property can be acquired outright (fee simple) or through a conservation easement whereby the current landowner retains ownership of the property but the use of that property is restricted.”
I followed the Benton County budget and folks, there is not enough money in the budget to operate the county now. It has a levy for law enforcement. It needs money for it’s other legacy, the downtown Civic Center. Commissioners have been putting off road and facility maintenance. The Commissioners said in the Budget Hearings they will have to spend down the reserves to operate in the future. STOP SPENDING ALREADY!!!
One of the requirements to receive the impact permit is to show where the funds will come from to sustain throughout the life of proposed 50 year permit. I read an article by Bennett Hall, from the Gazette-Times on September 13th titled, County absorbs cost of saving butterfly. There is a quote “We wanted to make sure we took the fee piece out because there was so much resistance to that,” County Commissioner Annabelle Jaramillo said.. It is clear that the plan does not have sufficient funding and the budget can not support such waste. End this plan now. Before millions more of taxpayers money is wasted.