By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Gordon Whiting's presence on the Game and Fish Commission didn't slow Kaibab Industries late in 1990 when it demanded access to Game and Fish Department files under provisions of the Arizona Public Records Law. Kaibab broadly requested "all correspondence, memoranda, internal studies, minutes of meetings," regarding endangered species, information exchanged with environmental groups, how wildlife habitat is affected by timber harvesting and other timber issues, and even passenger manifests of airplanes flown over national forests.
"It was extensive and of considerable cost to the agency," says Bob Weaver, state habitat coordinator for the Game and Fish Department. Kaibab sent several employees at a time to comb records in the Phoenix, Pinetop and Flagstaff offices, tying up 475 man-hours for the Game and Fish Department and making copies of more than 4,100 documents, more than 60 photographs and six audio tapes. When Game and Fish balked on releasing minutes of staff meetings, Kaibab Industries took the agency to court and lost.
A resulting report from Kaibab Industries to the director of Game and Fish, Duane Shroufe, was a rebuttal to an earlier Game and Fish "white paper," both of which covered the same polarized eco-argument. Mickey Whiting stops short of admitting it was a show of force. "It was a wake-up call that we were going to insist on good science," he says. But whose science is "good science"?
The Kaibab report pointed to a Memorandum of Understanding between the Forest Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department that stipulated that the Forest Service has final jurisdiction over wildlife issues in national forests and that the Game and Fish Department is expected to cooperate with that agency. It singled out letters from Game and Fish personnel to Jim Norton of the Wilderness Society as proof of collusion. Ironically, the environmentalists were tipped off that the search was in process; the Sierra Club and two smaller environmental organizations filed Freedom of Information requests for duplicates of all documents copied by Kaibab Industries.
Environmentalists even turn up in the Forest Service. One of the documents that emerged in the Kaibab search was a letter to the Flagstaff office of Game and Fish that was signed by an organization that identified itself as "the Kaibab Gang."
"As employees of the Forest Service," it began, "we walk a very fine line when it comes to outside involvement in environmental matters which directly relate to the Kaibab. Nevertheless, it seems to us that many of the interested groups working to limit the cut on the Kaibab are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to seeing through the faulty numbers and the confusing paper trail left by beleaguered forest managers. These boys and girls are pros and they have one goal alone: Get out the volume. And as a result, what they say and what they do are oftentimes quite different. So unless you folks take the [environmental assessments] and go out and check each unit on the proverbial ground, you are never going to get a handle on this beast."
John Goodwin, a habitat specialist in the Game and Fish Flagstaff office, claims this letter caused an uproar between Kaibab Industries and the Forest Service. Both of those entities deny ever hearing of the Kaibab Gang. Even those Forest Service employees who are critical of their agency's forest management policies are reluctant to confirm the existence of a "gang."
The current allegations against Kaibab Forest Products that the U.S. Attorney is mulling over are the latest skirmish in the timber-environmental rift. Says Mickey Whiting, "I would truly love to see us all sit down together and work this out." Perhaps it will be done in court.
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