To counter what he calls misinformation put out by environmental groups, Southern Arizona attorney Hugh Holub has established the Center for Sustainable Development.

There is a range war going on in Southern Arizona with a clear effort on the part of a couple specific groups to kick all ranchers off public lands in the West, says Holub, who is founder and executive director of the new organization.

"Our purpose is to balance the debate in front of Federal officials," he said. "The Native Species Act was never meant to be used as a tool to beat the heck out of another group they didn't like."

For instance, Holub said efforts are under way to increase fees for federal grazing because according to the Center for Biological Diversity, cattle grazing contributes to the endangerment of the Desert Tortoise.

In December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the listing of the Desert Tortoise as an endangered species is warranted, however, due to other priorities it will have to wait. During the wait time, the service will make any determination on critical habitat during development of the proposed listing rule.

"People who aren't aware of this don't know how much it will affect everyone in Southern Arizona, especially in Tucson," Holub said. "They way some of the language is written home building, ranching, RV/ATV use, power lines, gas lines - just about everything is subordinate to the tortoise."

Holub said issues like this shouldn't be driven by litigation, as most of the claims by these groups are. Instead they should be driven by science.

"We need to put another chair at the table that will expand the role of relevant and reliable science; maximize consideration of economic and environmental benefits and assure that deceptive and/or unsupported claims are not given weight in the decision-making processes," Holub said. "That's what we are."

This doesn't mean Center for Sustainable Development will align itself against environmental issues. The primary purpose of the center is to assist in creating environmentally and economically sustainable land and natural resource development.

"Sustainable developments must be good for the environment as well as economically sound," Holub said. "It doesn't have to be one way or the other, we can come up with a third option that benefits both our economy and our environment."

More information about the Center for Sustainable Development is available atwww.centerforsustainabledevelopment.net.

Contact reporter Joe Pangburn at jpangburn@azbiz.com or (520) 405-2419.