Joe Konrad quoted the 1976 movie, “Network” to inspire those attending the inaugural meeting of the Southwest Communities Coalition on Wednesday in Benson.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore … ”

Konrad, vice mayor of the Benson City Council, captured the spirit of a gathering that featured ranchers, politicians and prominent community figures.

This was a rally of those who are frustrated by the never-ending legal actions brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, local environmentalists and other organizations that oppose economic development in Cochise County.

The front line of this fight is the Villages of Vigneto, the 13,000-acre planned community in Benson proposed by real estate developer El Dorado LLC, that has stalled after delays and objections from federal agencies and environmental groups. The formation of this coalition was accomplished by local officials, but its genesis and backing includes the developer of the massive Vigneto project.

Some of the inspiration for this group is a well-founded belief that bureaucrats and environmental groups outside of Cochise County are deciding how local lands should be used. Contrary to the stereotypical arguments often aired by those who oppose all economic development in the county, this fight is about more than wealthy real estate investors who are looking to turn a quick profit at the expense of the environment.

Ranchers and farmers attending Wednesday’s gathering pride themselves on generations of working to manage the land and protect the natural resources. They do so to sustain their livelihood and ensure the value of their property into the future.

At the moment, the specific objectives of the Southwest Community Coalition are not clear, other than to serve as a rallying organization for those who want the interests of land owners and real estate developers represented. The stated mission of the organization is “… to promote thriving communities, sustainable growth, a strong economy, sound stewardship of natural resources and protection of property rights.”

In the future, the SCC hopes to present a formidable, unified front of diverse individuals, businesses and organizations that stands up for protection of property rights and the environment, while it supports economic development.

We support the formation of this group and recognize it as a legitimate voice for local interests that have been silent while extreme environmentalists attempt to decide what’s best for Cochise County.

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