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EDITORIAL: Flower shouldn’t be used as fig leaf to stop development

Updated May 10, 2019 - 9:18 am

The priority for some environmentalists isn’t saving species, but limiting human development. Consider the Center for Biological Diversity, for instance.

Economic opportunity is a primary reason that Nevada tied with Idaho as the fastest-growing state last year, with its population increasing by more than 2 percent. Whether new residents come to work or retire, they need housing. Supply hasn’t kept up with demand.

The increase in housing prices has drawn considerable ire during the current legislative session as activists lament what they see as a shortage of “affordable” stock. But political interventions are too often counterproductive when it comes to bringing down housing prices and promoting “affordable” housing. The most promising course is to build more housing.

Along those lines, county officials have identified around 40,000 acres between Sloan and Jean as land that could be made available for development. They also want to build a new regional airport. That could be essential to boosting the tourism industry that drives the local economy.

Many critics worry about a potential water shortage, but the valley still has available resources in that regard and has made great strides in recent years maximizing its Colorado River allocations. A southward urban expansion, done correctly, would bring more housing, more jobs and more opportunity.

Enter the Center for Biological Diversity. This well-funded radical green group has become especially adept at using the legal system and the Endangered Species Act to challenge growth. It’s an especially aggressive advocate of the “banana” approach — build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything.

Thus its sudden interest in the white-margined beardtongue, a flower that grows in Southern Nevada. Patrick Donnelly, the center’s Nevada director, said he didn’t know much about the plant until recently. But the flower grows near the acreage that Clark County officials hope to unlock for development, so it’s become the fig leaf the center has adorned to gum up such plans. The flower needs protection, Mr. Donnelly said, before builders “bulldoze its habitat to build ‘Henderson South.’ ”

This shouldn’t be an all or nothing proposition. County officials are already taking steps to preserve the plant and are offering to set aside 6,000 acres on which the flower has grown previously.

Not that any of this will appease the Center for Biological Diversity, which will unleash the lawyers no matter how many concessions local officials make. But it would be refreshing if Mr. Donnelly and his fellow travelers would simply be honest about it. Their opposition has little to do with the white-margined beardtongue and everything to do with opposing any and all human development, a prescription for economic stagnation and decay.

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