By Mark Waite
Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen likes to espouse his Libertarian philosophy during commission meetings, but Commissioner Joni Eastley Tuesday suggested he temper his remarks.
Schinhofen asked to pull an item from the consent agenda to approve a contract with Awesome Construction LLC to build a 4,000-foot tortoise fence at the Pahrump landfill; Awesome was the lowest of three bidders. In a report to the commission, Public Works Director Dave Fanning said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representatives determined the three-foot high fence is needed along the entire perimeter of the 120-acre landfill.
A report by Mary Darling, county environmental consultant, said the fencing will comply with a desert tortoise habitat conservation plan for the Pahrump Valley. The plan also requires an annual tortoise fence monitoring report to be submitted to fish and wildlife by a qualified biologist. Some of the old tortoise fence is still in place, Darling said.
“I have a problem with fish and wildlife and BLM and how they, I think, use extortion to get us to comply,” Schinhofen said.
He referred to a San Diego freeway project that was stopped because of a blind spider thought to be extinct.
“This is the kind of thing that bothers me. This was something that was carried over so we have to comply with them and I don’t hate tortoises, I love tortoises. They’re good in soup. We have over 2 million acres set aside for these guys already,” Schinhofen said.
Commissioner Butch Borasky added, “that’s not enough for them buddy, they want it all, everything.”
Fanning said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service let Nye County use an old chain link fence as a tortoise barrier for 25 years. An interim fence between the old and new sections of the landfill was taken down, which is a reason for the new fencing, she said.
“In the interest of keeping a good working relationship with fish and wildlife, who I’ve always had a good working relationship with, I’d prefer that we not call them extortionists on the record,” Eastley said. “They’re doing a job Congress requires them to do.”
Borasky questioned if anyone has seen a tortoise near the landfill in the 20 plus years it’s been open. Fanning said the public works department keeps a log book with reports on desert tortoise sightings in Pahrump Valley, he said there were quite a few reported sightings during the construction of the federal detention center by Corrections Corporation of America. Eastley speculated some of those sightings could’ve been reported by opponents of the detention center.
After his scolding, Schinhofen admitted, “extortion may be kind of a harsh word. That point is well taken. They’re doing their job, I just don’t know why they have the job after all.”
Borasky said at a recent meeting of the Quad State committee someone witnessed a raven eating a tortoise. The committee has been trying to get fish and wildlife service to realize the extent of the predator problem, he said.