Thursday, November 7, 2013

Queen Anne’s County Zoning Board of Appeals Denies Routine Violator’s Conditional Use Request For Mining Project

In a unanimous (3-0) decision this Wednesday, the Queen Anne’s County Zoning Board of Appeals denied a request by Merrick Farm LLC for conditional use approval to continue operating a major sand and gravel mine on its property in Ingleside, MD, which was shut down in September of this year for extensive County violations.  We represented several neighboring landowners and Queen Anne’s Conservation Association, a Maryland organization whose mission is to monitor impacts upon and to promote and protect the natural resources, rural character and small towns of Queen Anne’s County, Maryland.  The Board ruled that, in light of the company’s repeated violations and misstatements to County and State agencies and officials concerning its prior mining operations, its application failed to meet two of the three general use standards imposed by Queen Anne’s County Code § 18:1-94, and thus must be denied.

Massive Solar Projects Imperiling the Desert Tortoise

On behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, we have sent the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service a letter detailing violations of the Endangered Species Act in connection with approval of two massive solar projects in the dwindling remaining habitat of the imperiled Desert Tortoise.  Although the FWS itself, along with other experts, have long recognized that Tortoises require several miles wide corridors to insure population and genetic stability, the FWS has issued a Biological Opinion (Bi-Op) that will allow construction of the two projects even though they will constrict these corridors – particularly the vitally important corridor between one of the projects and the Lucy Gray Mountains – to well below that width.  Adding insult to injury, the FWS also approved the solar companies’ plans to take the approximately 200 large Tortoises that live on the project sites and "translocate" them into the very corridor near the Lucy Gray Mountains that is going to be too narrow for the species’ long-term habitat needs.  The Bi-Op also makes wildly optimistic assumptions about the success of the translocation efforts, while at the same time ignoring the overall impacts to the Tortoise, and its recovery prospects, of the many habitat-destroying projects occurring in this area at this time. A copy of the Notice Letter is available here.