By RICK JOHNSON
I'm a former Wood River Valley resident and business owner who is now the leader of the state's largest conservation organization, the Idaho Conservation League.
You probably know the Idaho Conservation League because of our work to protect clean water and wilderness. We were founded to "Keep Idaho Idaho," back in 1973, and for a long time threats to Idaho's extraordinary outdoor values came from logging trucks and chainsaws, mining rigs and bulldozers.
It's different now. Idaho values are increasingly lost to development and sprawl. Idaho is the third-fastest growing state in the nation and this brings too many motorized toys to our trails, and too many people in too many cars filling our roads. You know this. You see it every day. All across Idaho, people are concerned as never before about the impacts of growth. That's why the Idaho Conservation League works on growth issues in a variety of critical Idaho locations.
The Wood River Valley, obviously, is growing, too, and some of that is a good thing, fueling a strong economy. But not all of it is good, that's for sure.
The Wood River Valley is a remarkable place, and as someone who lived here and no longer does, let me remind you how remarkable your public lands and open spaces are. And it's not just pretty; the land all around you contains world-class fish and wildlife values. It's a fragile treasure at your backdoor.
A major new development is now threatening those values you cannot take for granted.
The Cove Springs proposal is the first large development proposed for the south county. It would be a development of over 360 new homes, more than four miles from Bellevue. This clustered development might be fine outside of Boise. It's not fine in the Bellevue Triangle.
There are many questions about water. The developer seeks a new municipal water right, which would come from the aquifer. No one is sure what effects this might cause for Silver Creek and the aquifer.
There is not, in my mind, a question about wildlife. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game opposes this project, a rare position for them to take, because of the unacceptable loss and fragmentation of wildlife habitat.
The proposed development does not comply with Idaho Law, the Blaine County Comprehensive Plan, or the Blaine County Code, which require protection of wildlife resources. The 600-acre footprint of the subdivision is located in a deer migration corridor, deer and elk winter range, and important sage grouse habitat.
Join us at the Planning and Zoning hearing on March 22 at 6:30 at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey or e-mail the P&Z Commission at email@example.com and tell them to recommend against this development proposal. For more information, go to our Web site at www.wildidaho.org.