Issue 3, Summer 2003

Out of the Blue...

Happy Holidays!

I'm dating myself, but does anyone remember how Gilda Radnor used to wrap up her news bit on Saturday Night Live? She would always close with, ďIt just goes to show ya, if itís not somethin', then itís somethin else.Ē

Thatís exactly how it feels being a wilderness advocate under the dark cloud of the Bush Administration. It's been a crazy year--full of small, positive steps for wilderness at the local level, only to be followed by resounding negative blows against wilderness protection from Washington. However, we seem to be holding our own against this Administrationís shenanigans, and remarkably, we are moving our wilderness proposals forward with the compassion and leadership of Congressman Raul Grijalva.

The Bush Administrationís assaults on wilderness:

  • On Christmas Eve last year, the Administration announced rule changes that make it possible for counties, individuals, and off-road vehicle groups to claim horse trails and cow paths as highways Ė through our parks, National Forests and yes, even through existing and potential wilderness areas!

  • On a Friday afternoon, just as the Easter Congressional recess began, the Department of the Interior announced a stealthy settlement agreement with the State of Utah that would eliminate the Bureau of Land Management's ability to identify and protect Wilderness Study Areas until they can be officially designated by Congress.

  • Late on a Friday afternoon--Halloween no less!--the Department of the Interior delivered a letter to a select group of legislators suggesting that they could circumvent a massive public planning process (one that 50,000 citizens have participated in), by passing surruptitious legislation that would remove the Colorado River within the Grand Canyon from wilderness consideration.

  • Hmmm, I seem to detect a pattern here. I wonder what holiday treat is planned for this Christmas!

We will not be deterred.

The Arizona Wilderness Coalition has joined with seven other wilderness advocacy groups across the United States in a lawsuit charging that the Department of the Interior has violated federal environmental laws, the U.S. Constitution, and federal court decisions when it secretly agreed to surrender the Bureau of Land Managementís authority to review and protect its wilderness-quality lands.

We are active in a national media campaign to thwart the Administrationís giveaways of public land to the off-road vehicle crowd. We have helped the BLM to realize that they still have a legal responsibility to manage wild lands for wilderness values. Identifying and advocating for public lands worthy and eligible for permanent wilderness protection remains a focal point of our work.

We have developed a conflict resolution for the Grand Canyon that will comply with National Park policy for managing the existing wilderness proposal, as well as provide the commercial boating concessionaires with a viable business opportunity at the Park. Most importantly, this would permanently preserve the Colorado River as the wild heart of the Grand Canyon, offering the premier wilderness whitewater experience in the world-Ė a 250 mile stretch of unrivaled beauty and excitement.

On a brighter noteÖ

In Arizona we have reason for holiday cheer. In 2002, Raķl Grijalva was elected to represent southern Arizonaís District 7 in the U.S. House of Representatives. Not since Morris Udall strode the halls of Congress has Arizona had such a champion actively working to preserve Arizonaís wild places.

We are collaborating with Congressman Grijalva, Coalition member groups, and others to initiate an effort to designate a significant amount of new wilderness in southern Arizona. Together we intend to build a strong and diverse coalition of local and national conservation groups, ethnic groups, local officials, and businesses that will support wilderness legislation for this spectacular wildlife-rich region of Arizona.

As you can see, I refuse to be pessimistic during these rather harsh times. The Wilderness Act of 1964 was passed "In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States...".  I am convinced that, as time passes, the wilderness we protect today will appreciate in value and leave our future generations richer as a result.

As we reflect about what is important in our lives this holiday season, please remember the wildlife and wild places we cherish for rejeuvenation, recreation, and remarkable enlightenment. We could not be more fortunate for the beauty that surrounds us.

My immediate family is healthy and happy. I am honored to be given this wonderful opportunity to work for our wild places in Arizona. I share this mission with a knowledgeable and dedicated staff that makes our accomplishments and continuous hope possible.

Life canít get much better, unless of course, we hear from you.

Happy Holidays and Peace on Earth,