Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
places of western North America
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEWS RELEASE: May
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP, LOCAL CITIZENS TO CHALLENGE SCOTTSDALE AREA DEVELOPMENT
PROPOSED SUBDIVISION, GOLF COURSES THREATEN VERDE RIVER BALD EAGLES
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and local Scottsdale group Concerned Citizens About Responsible Environment (CCARE) today officially notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers they would sue over the agency's permitting of the Vista Verde development in northeast Maricopa County. Vista Verde is a proposed 856-acre development by Rio Verde Services, Inc. which would build hundreds of houses and 36 holes of golf within a mile of the Verde River and an active bald eagle nest. The bald eagle is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under the ESA, federal agencies such as the Army Corps are required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service if their actions may affect listed species. The Corps has been placed on notice because it has illegally and wrongfully concluded that its permitting of Vista Verde will not affect the adjacent eagle nest site.
The Verde River nest site, known as Box Bar, has contained nesting birds for at least the last seven years, and was occupied by a pair of eagles this winter. Only 40 bald eagle breeding sites exist in the Southwest. Scientific studies have found that human activity can have a significant effect on eagle behavior such as foraging, resting, loafing, and nesting. Recognizing this threat, the Fish and Wildlife Service wrote to Army Corps on January 9 regarding the Vista Verde development that "we do not concur with your no effect determination . . . and we are concerned that increasing disturbance associated with urbanization may eventually lead to nest site abandonment." Nonetheless, the Corps has indicated it will issue the permit without initiating consultation with Fish and Wildlife Service or considering impacts to the eagle.
"It is disgraceful that the Army Corps of Engineers is willing to sacrifice this majestic bird, an American symbol of freedom, for tract homes and golf courses," stated Brian Segee, Appeals Coordinator with CBD. "The Corps is nationally known as a rogue agency. Destructive and arrogant actions such as this only further that reputation, " concluded Segee.
Unfortunately, the Vista Verde development is only the latest project in northeastern Maricopa County which has been given rubber-stamp approval by the agency. In 1998, the agency granted permits for the adjacent Tonto Verde project over the objections of both Fish and Wildlife Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department. These developments, which border the Tonto National Forest and the McDowell Mountain Park, not only endanger the bald eagle, but are destroying the area's rural character and threatening the Verde River. This rapid alteration and destruction alarms local community activists. "The devastation to our environment by Army Corps non-concern seems to be their benchmark," stated Marlene Baker with Concerned Citizens About Responsible Environment. "They continually ignore the laws of environmental protections and should be held accountable," concluded Baker.
The Center for Biological Diversity, formed in 1989, is a science-based environmental advocacy organization with more than 5,000 members which works on wildlife and habitat protection issues throughout Western North America.
CCARE, a Scottsdale group, was formed as a citizens' group in 1998 that addresses environmental impacts and educates the public about our responsibility to the environment.