I lived in Washington County for one long year. In that time the county probably upped it's population by 10%, and it's developed land by as much if not more. It's a hot spot, which goes without saying.
Which is why it's so important that two major developments regarding development have occurred. First, Senator Bob Bennett and Representative Jim Matheson have introduced a bill, which can be reviewed here, that would help direct growth through the sale of some less biologically important public lands to fund conservation and stewardship of other more biologically important public lands. At least, that's what it says now. And when you think of it like that, it's a good idea. Regardless of this logic, several groups have come out vehemently opposed to any sale of wilderness areas, including SUWA, the Utah Chapter Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Society.
Everyone knows, of course, that bills will change. Over the course of the bill different interests will push for different changes. Some will be accommodated and others will not.
I hope that the interests that are accommadated are more environmental than developmental.
Everyone knows also that development in Washington County is inevitable. It will happen whether it is properly planned for or not. Which is why I hope that the Lands Bill introduced by Bennett and Matheson can be a positive force for quality growth.
In the meantime, however, the second development has occurred. Washington County commissioners, and representatives from the Nature Conservancy, the Oquirrh Institute, and Envision Utah signed a memorandum of understanding in April that would, in effect "manage Washington County's explosive rate of growth."
"The incredible growth in this area, combined with the outstanding natural features and unique landscape, make it absolutely essential that a blueprint for future growth and development be established that will protect the lifestyle unique to southwestern Utah," Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. wrote in a letter of endorsement that Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert signed on his behalf during the Utah League of Cities and Towns' mid-year meeting in St. George in April.
I hope the bill really creates a framework for positive and sustainable growth in the county, but in the meantime I applaud Washington County, the Nature Conservancy, the Oquirrh Institute, and Envision Utah for taking the lead in creating that framework themselves, rather than reacting negatively and stubbornly to the bill created by Bennett and Matheson. It shows true leadership to do something more than just react.