Your article on Washington County's Habitat Conservation Plan in southern Utah (HCN, 8/30/99) failed to make it clear that the plan is already successfully protecting tortoises inside the 61,000-acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and that the county is working further to reduce impacts to tortoises.
With the help of federal, state and local agencies, Washington County has been coordinating fencing for the BLM outside the reserve to protect endangered plants; given over 40 classes to over 1,700 schoolkids and related parties on tortoises and other wildlife in the reserve; paid for and put up 250 signs throughout the reserve so people know where it stops and ends; participated in the creation of the Snow Canyon State Park management plan; cleared over 1,000 acres of ground slated for development outside the reserve and moved over 130 tortoises out of harm's way; cooperated with the USFWS in translocating healthy tortoises to new areas; funded a BLM law-enforcement position at $65,000 a year to patrol the reserve; along with key cities, passed 10 ordinances and seven inter-local agreements that directly or indirectly help tortoises.
I point out these accomplishments so people will understand that we've been successful and that we have built a highly effective, collaborative partnership that operates out in the open, finds solutions and gets things done with minimal bureaucracy. We are now in the process of carefully configuring recreational trails around not just sensitive tortoise habitat but other sensitive species as well, by way of a balanced team of biologists and recreationists nominated by our communities.
If there is any single lesson learned by the success of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and its associated HCP, it is that you must give the local community, especially when they are the ones footing the bill, the opportunity to be a meaningful part of the process. You must also give them some sense of ownership, as well as pride and credit for the outcome.
St. George, Utah
Bill Mader is a Washington County administrator. For the full text of this letter, see our Web page at www.hcn.org.