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"I've learned there's more than one side to every story," Gordon responds. "There's more than two sides."
No one in the family anticipated the battles to come. "I didn't even know there was a Game and Fish Commission," Bruce says. "We had very few dealings with the department back then. Gordon liked to hunt and fish, so it sounded like a great idea."
Mickey told Gordon the five-year term would be "just enough time to piss everybody off." By all accounts, Gordon served an exemplary, fair-minded term. And in the end, only Kaibab Industries--and his family--were pissed off.
@body:In the morning, a pair of roosters called from the fields outside the ranch house, each trying to outdo the other. Four horses grazed in a field bordered by cottonwood and chestnut trees. The canyon walls rose dustily from just across the dirt road.
A burr-covered white tomcat ran out of the bushes and rubbed between Gordon's legs as he got into his pickup truck. He's a lonely cat since the family moved, and his former companion, a dog who looks like a cross between a pit bulldog and a javelina, got exiled to town for killing chickens. Gordon jammed a straw hat on his head and climbed into the truck and steamed along the dirt roads, slowing only to open fences and to avoid the cattle walking sullenly along the roadside. There are a couple of ranches in Aravaipa Canyon, though the town of Klondyke is nothing more than a general store that doesn't have enough inventory to fill a telephone booth and a hunting lodge that the Whitings built and then sold.
Gordon talked about a mountain-lion study that Game and Fish is conducting on his land. Before the election, he made television commercials arguing against Proposition 200, the antitrapping measure that failed. Ironically, he doesn't believe in trapping, but worried about the law's implications for hunting and fishing in general. When he first moved to the canyon, some animal, probably a lion, was killing his cattle and he set a trap for it. He caught a black bear instead and had to shoot it.
"That was the last trap I set, and it didn't sit well with me," he said. Then he set out to change the depredation laws.
At that time, ranchers could legally trap or shoot bears or lions preying on their livestock, and what Gordon noticed was that the ranchers would kill any predator that came through their property, often trapping the animals and leaving them to starve to death in the traps. He had the law rewritten to force the ranchers to prove depredation before such killing, and then requiring the ranchers to kill in a more humane manner.
"A lot of people thought I'd sold the cowboys out on that one," he says.
More important, he and other commission members asked department director Duane Shroufe to look for sources of revenue above and beyond what was gathered by hunting and fishing licenses. The result was a guaranteed $10 million a year from Arizona Lottery's Heritage Fund.
The money has made Arizona Game and Fish Department the envy of all state wildlife agencies, a target of the extractive industries and an antagonist of the Forest Service, because it gave Game and Fish the funds to aggressively fight for habitat for nongame species of animals. House Majority Leader Mark Killian, an ardent antienvironmentalist, tried this past spring to divert monies out of the fund.
@body:The first antienvironmentalist attack on the Game and Fish Department, however, came from Kaibab Industries.
In April 1990, honchos at Kaibab sat down with representatives from the Forest Service, the Game and Fish Department and the Sierra Club and signed an agreement. Nine timber sales were grandfathered into the settlement. Despite the agreement, the Sierra Club appealed four of the sales and the Game and Fish Department appealed one by the end of that September. Though the Sierra Club points to a clause near the end of the document that allowed it to further scrutinize the terms of the agreement, Kaibab saw the appeal as a betrayal. Then, when the Game and Fish Department published a "white paper" critical of timber practices in Arizona, tempers blew.
Bruce Whiting and Mickey Whiting invoked the Arizona Public Records Law and demanded access to the Game and Fish Department's files. The white paper, they felt, was based on "bad science," or, rather, not on their science.
Kaibab employees, six at a time, descended on Game and Fish Department offices in Phoenix, Flagstaff and Pinetop and walked away with copies of more than 4,100 documents, more than 60 photographs and six audio tapes. Kaibab sued to obtain transcripts of staff meetings, as well, but the judge ruled against them. Ultimately, the search turned up little more than a few letters to and from staffers at the Wilderness Society, scant proof of collusion with "radical" environmentalists, but it had cost the department more than 475 man-hours.
Gordon resigned from Kaibab Industries' board of directors during the fray to prevent apparent conflict of interest, and took himself out of all Game and Fish matters that dealt with the timber industry. And though he claims he harbors no anger about the incident--and would be unlikely to admit it even if he did--he was caught awkwardly in the middle.