BISBEE — A letter from Cochise County in support of the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to allow grazing on the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area was approved during Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors, though not unanimously.
Supervisors Ann English and Peggy Judd approved the letter, but Supervisor Tom Crosby did not, saying the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, which is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, is “unconstitutional.”
He stated, “The SPRNCA was established in 1988. The SPRNCA seemed like a good idea, when it was accompanied by $10 million of free money from the federal government. More millions of dollars have followed. I do support our ranchers, but I do not believe the way to support them is through acknowledging the BLM. In my opinion the SPRNCA is unconstitutional. In my opinion, the most detrimental effect the SPRNCA has been to set up the endless lawsuits that have intended to reduce missions on Fort Huachuca. One of the historical missions of the fort is protecting livestock interests.
“Our ranchers, in my opinion, do not need permission of the BLM. This item broaches one of the top two issues that come before this board. Much more action is needed on this subject.”
He then made a motion to table the agenda item to approve the letter to have more discussion on the SPRNCA and “the broader issue of water.”
However, a motion to approve the letter had already been made and seconded, making his motion to table moot.
Richard Searle, a former supervisor and speaking on behalf of county ranchers, pointed out the county spent a lot of money developing the Comprehensive Plan which is quoted in the letter, “Per our plan, agricultural uses, including grazing, should be permitted on all public lands within limits consistent with multiple use and conservation goals. Further, in relation to the SPRNCA, our Plan states, ‘Cochise County recognizes both the historic and current value of the SPRNCA as a national riparian wildlife habitat, migratory bird corridor, recreational and agricultural resource, and critical habitat for an endangered species.’”
Searle also said the Cochise County Farm Bureau, Cochise Graham Cattle growers Association and the Hereford National Resources Conservation District are all in support of grazing on the SPRNCA.
English told Crosby the county has worked with the BLM for a number of years and offered comments during the planning stages of the SPRNCA management plan.
“We wanted our public lands to be used by the public,” she said, adding the additional uses of grazing and expansion of the hunting areas created more public use.
Judd’s plan to move forward on creating a safer line of sight for drivers and property owners on a curve on Cascabel Drive using her discretionary funds was denied as English and county civil attorneys pointed out the project needed to go out to bid.
While the county does have the right of way to work on the hill, it creates a hazard for three property owners accessing Cascabel Road as well as walkers and people picking up their mail and people driving on the road, as pointed out by Judd.
“The traveling public never knows when someone is pulling out of their driveways,” she said.
County highway engineer Jackie Watkins told the supervisors the problem with hills and lines of sight are common in the county. She said the 25 miles per hour speed limit does allow for drivers to stop in time to avoid an accident.
The issue lies with hiring a contractor to cleave the hill and remove the dirt in a public right of way without going through the procurement process, said English, and it was backed up by county Civil Deputy Attorney Christine Roberts.
“It’s in violation of the procurement process. It can lead to liabilities if something goes wrong,” said Roberts.
English stated, “It protects the county. Contractors have to have liability insurance. The company who does it has to have the proper credentials and insurance. This quote you gave us is just a note someone gave you.”
When the vote came, English and Crosby voted not to approve the project.
Bisbee Douglas International Airport is set to receive $166,500 in grant funds from the Arizona Department of Transportation Aeronautics Group and the Federal Aviation Administration for upgrades and replacements of wind cones, a beacon and its tower, and COVID–19 money for costs related to operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitization, janitorial services and combating the spread of pathogens at the airport.
The Cochise County Airport in Willcox received $9,000 from the FAA for costs relating to the COVID–19 health pandemic in operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitization, janitorial services and combating the spread of pathogens at the airport.
Editor's note: A previous version of the story used the word "illegal" instead of "unconstitutional" to categorize Supervisor Tom Crosby's description of the SPRNCA. The Herald/Review apologizes for the error.