Skip to comments.Fort, center settle suit on bio pact (Ft Huachuca vs. Center for Bio-Diversity)
Posted on 09/20/2006 4:21:38 PM PDT by SandRat
FORT HUACHUCA A federal judge has approved a lawsuit settlement in which the post and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will renegotiate a biological opinion.
Fort Huachucas proactive decision to re-initiate consultation was instrumental in the Center for Biological Diversity and the Army agreeing to settle the lawsuit involving activities at Fort Huachuca and the impact of these activities on the San Pedro River basin, post spokeswoman Tanja Linton said Tuesday. Jeff Humphrey, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman in Phoenix, said the settlement was signed Friday by U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson, who is assigned to the District of Arizonas Tucson court. The agreement removes the fort from a long list of federal agencies in a suit filed last year by the Center for Biological Diversity.
The service and the Army have been working to redo a previous biological opinion, which was approved several years ago, Humphrey said.
The fort hasnt been doing this in a vacuum, he said.
In the past, the center claimed the fort violated the existing biological opinion by increasing the number of people assigned to the post and that the forts existence created the addition of more people moving into the San Pedro River basin.
Dr. Robin Silver, chairman of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the judges ruling was a victory for the environmental group, not the Army.
The 2002 biological opinion signed by the military and Fish and Wildlife Service was flawed from the start, Silver said. As the post increased its manpower, it became more apparent the military was not complying with the Endangered Species Act, he said.
In the forts press release, Linton noted post officials decided to seek a new biological opinion to meet critical and rapidly changing national security missions. The decision to pursue a new biological opinion was made in March.
Fort Huachuca is the home of the Armys Intelligence Center, where soldiers and others are trained on intelligence missions, including human intelligence collectors, considered vital in combating the war on terrorism.
But Silver said he believes post officials are using national security as a ploy for uncontrolled growth on the installation, as well as off the post, as economic indicators in the past few years indicate more than $800 million is being spent in Cochise County, which is a 40 percent increase from the time the biological opinion was signed in 2002.
In the past, Garrison Commander Col. Jonathan Hunter contended Silver is double-counting some personnel figures and misinterpreting money spent without taking into account inflation figures and special contracts that have no relation to an increase in the forts population, such as new replacement housing.
Humphrey said according to the settlement, the fort has until Jan. 1 to provide the Fish and Wildlife Service a biological assessment, a document to be used to come up with a new biological opinion.
Then the two parties have until May 16 to finalize the opinion and submit it to the court, he said.
The court incorporated a 45-day automatic extension if more time is need by the post and Fish and Wildlife Service to complete the opinion, making June 30 when documents have to be filed in the Tucson court, Humphrey said.
The post has reported continued water savings on the installation every month.
Linton said the fort will continue to reduce water consumption and be a proactive and responsible environmental steward of the areas natural resources.
HERALD/REVIEW senior reporter Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FORT HUACHUCA is in the middle of a dessert! There is no biology to be assessed!