Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How Far to Take Opposition to a Plan?

Story in this morning's Trib about how the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society and SUWA really dislike the land use plan for Washington County unveiled last week by Sen. Bennett and Rep. Matheson. As the story say, "(the) three environmental groups have determined that they don't like the proposed Washington County land-use bill... (a)nd that might be putting it mildly."

I have no problem with anyone not liking what is proposed in general plans or other land-use planning efforts. From what I understand, the Washington County proposal is going to go through a process of public comments and input before it is finalized. Great. That's the place for groups and individuals to express their views and try to persuade others about their viewpoints.

What I wonder is how far these environmental groups will take their views. If their opinions are not accepted or broadly incorporated into the proposal, will they then take the extreme position of challenging in court? That seems to be what they are setting up for. If they do, does that mean their opinions and viewpoints are the only "correct" ones? If everyone were to take such an attitude about their viewpoints, nothing would ever be accomplished. Most plans are the product of a number of different ideas and viewpoints which are blended into a plan, which often represents "some of yours and some of mine," not just all your or all my way.

Be interesting to watch what happens with this.


At 11:11 AM, Blogger ARCritic said...

I'm not sure that they think that their viewpoint is the only "correct" one. It seems to me that often when these groups sue it is because they believe that their arguments were dismissed without being fairly considered.

Of course, I also think that many of these people believe there are many out there who dismiss them out of hand so the only way they can get a fair hearing of their points is to sue in court. Unfortuately they are probably more often right.

At 12:41 PM, Blogger BOK said...

I agree with AR. SUWA and Sierra Club say that they could have been brought into the process earlier, so I wonder if our legislators could have avoided some of these apparent conflicts by including them prior to the announcement of the legislation. This indeed suggests a complete disregard for the interests of these groups. Let's also not forget that these groups are not just faceless entities, but represent the passions, concerns, and interests of many common citizens, both in Utah and elsewhere. Why not include them?

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Wilf said...

Good comments. Absolutely all viewpoints should be included and considered -- that's what good planning is all about. I would agree that these groups should be included early in the process, as probably a number of other should be.

We shall see how this all plays out.

At 5:57 AM, Blogger ARCritic said...

Of course one problem with including them in the process is that because of the history of law suits and animosity between these groups, the people who would be extending the invitations are usually not fond of the people they would be inviting.

And it seems often that even if they are involved that if they don't get what they want (which may or may not be what they ask for), they will sue. So often the reaction is to say, "if they are going to sue anyway, why go through the hassle at the beginning as well."

At 8:24 AM, Blogger steve u. said...

Environmental groups were invited to the table on day 1 of this process, which started long before the legislation was introduced. Specifically, SUWA had a representative on the working group that formulated the plan.

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Brian said...

After reading the draft language, I'm reserving judgement. SUWA's stand against the proposal isn't surprising. From what I have heard, they may have been invited to the table, but they were not treated as equal participants. Or they, at least, did not feel as such. Now, that may just be hard feelings on their part for past issues, but it may also have just involved a poor choice of words from others int he room. No one can deny that there are deep-seated communication barriers between SUWA and local officials that are going to take time to break down.

I must say I'm impressed with the number of concessions that appear to be made by the local governments in regards to wilderness areas outside of the National Park, the very fact that the name Wild and Scenic Rivers is being bandied about, and the notion of expanding Zion NPs boundaries, even just a little bit. Those are not trivial issues to many people in Washington county or the state as a whole.

Of course, the devil will be in the details. The processes developed for gathering public input and making decisions are going to be the keys to success. The land identification methods need to be open, balanced, and fair. Envision Utah is a good vehicle to get the public involved. However, it might be prudent to involve a third-party neutral, such as an out-of-state university to evaluate environmental decisions from an objective viewpoint - similar to the work Utah State University is doing for Clark County, NV.

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Franklin said...

As many in this thread have touched on, good planning requires creating buy-in. Unfortunately, it appears that in Washington County, as in many southern Utah counties, their extreme ideaological bias in favor of private property rights and against any federal or community rights, made it impossible for them to take the national conservation community's interests to heart, or even give them serious consideration. The reason the bill is getting absolutely zero support around the nation is because it awards zero consessions to the national conservation interest while exacting rather large consessions from them. That's always a recipe for planning disaster. Now you have the Outdoor Industry Association throwing it's weight against the bill.


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