Drew Crane, AP
This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows prairie dogs. As part of an ongoing effort to preserve habitat for Utah prairie dogs yet offset their impacts to rural airports, 800 acres of school trust lands property will be sold to The Nature Conservancy.
As a commissioner of Iron County, I am committed to collaborating in preference to conflict. But I refuse to collaborate on terms that weaken the rights of my fellow citizens of Iron County. So when I was recently accused of being concerned about infringement of private property rights in an article released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service titled, "Conservation requires collaboration, not conflict," I'll admit I stand guilty as charged.
Without a win-win outcome, collaboration converts to an out-of-balance compromise. I like collaboration and I like conservation, but the evidence proves that Iron County has been taken advantage of in the name of conservation for decades. The people of Iron County have been fined, threatened with imprisonment and our economy has suffered under the pretense of conservation.
For starters, let's talk conservation. As a conservationist, I know the definition of conservation means carefully utilizing natural resources in order to prevent depletion. What we currently have under the pretense of conservation of the Utah Prairie dog is an egregious waste of taxpayer resources. By their own projections, after four decades and millions of taxpayer dollars, the USFWS anticipates spending another $106 million over the course of another 30 years to "recover" the prairie dog.
This kind of runaway, unbridled spending with irresponsible time frames is the antitheses of conservation.
Intuitively we all understand the value of our environment and the responsibility we have to conserve natural resources including wildlife resources. I applaud efforts to conserve prairie dogs and all natural resources, but don't mistake activity for achievement. Just because the FWS is busy passing rules like 4(d), buying up SITLA lands, completing program consultations with the FAA over the destruction of airport runways and building underground iron curtains to protect our ancestral remains from opportunistic burrowing carnivores in cemeteries, by itself doesn't mean they are accomplishing anything.
Here lies the eye-opening reality: The FWS functions under intense pressure in fear of being sued by pseudo conservationist groups across the country at our expense. Numerous attorney-centric groups have identified the extraordinarily lucrative proposition of suing the federal government in the name of the Endangered Species Act and exploit it with a full vengeance. These same groups who rail and slander in the name of conservation are the operatives who enrich themselves with taxpayer dollars while true conservation suffers. As much as I have found reason for discontent with the FWS, I have found a general sincere desire to contribute their expertise to leaving the world a better place than they found it.
But the proposals to shift the cost of recovery onto private property owners of Iron County who have found themselves in the crosshairs of this mess are repulsive and unacceptable. To place innocent property owners in jeopardy to rightfully use their own private property undermines every institution of freedom and justice for which our forefathers, in many cases, gave the ultimate sacrifice. Let us not forget that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. This issue affects all of us.
I took an oath upon entering office to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and of the state of Utah for the protections they afford individual rights. I know what freedom is, and it is under attack. I will support every effort to responsibly promote self government and responsible citizenship in preference to a dumbed down dependency on the dictates of D.C. or any other threat to our individual liberties. And for that I am not ashamed.
Dave Miller is a commisioner of Iron County.