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Tom Woods is president of the Heritage Alliance, which oversees distribution of the lottery-generated funds that support the Game and Fish and State Parks departments; he is also a conservative Republican and former chief operating officer of Arizona Public Service Company, one of the state's largest utilities.
"I assure you, there's one thing behind it," he says of the proposed restructuring. "It's to reduce regulation of any kind against business and to give business this unfettered advantage to proceed and contribute to the economy of the state."
Fife Symington used to call himself "the environmental governor," and probably considers himself an environmentalist in the way ranchers consider themselves "stewards of the land."
A poster commissioned for this year's inaugural ball shows elk and cattle peaceably grazing across adjacent grassy hillsides rendered in Cowboy Romantic style. It's a perfect image for the Wise Use Movement, this updated Garden of Eden in which Man lives off the sustainable bounties of Nature. People for the West, a mining lobby that calls itself a grassroots organization, recently presented a "Conservation Leadership Award" to Symington, which is as oxymoronic--perhaps just moronic--as being named "Classiest Man at K mart."
"At the mining rally in Globe," the commendation reads, "Governor Symington said to the cheering crowd, 'There's been some confusion in Washington as to who the endangered species is. I don't believe it's the spotted owl. . . . I'm absolutely dedicated to preserving the mining, logging and cow industry in this state.'
"This is the kind of leadership that America needs to protect jobs, families, communities and the environment."
In his State of the State address, Symington took another shot at the Endangered Species Act by telling the touching story of a Snowflake man who had lost his job at the mill. "Governor," the man told Symington, "I care about animals and I care about the environment. I want to protect them. But I want to protect my children first."
The notion that the Endangered Species Act destroys rural communities is a favored clich‚ of the far right, but it's blatantly untrue. Between 1988 and 1994 in Arizona, 3,183 projects--mines, timber sales and such--were reviewed for compliance with the Endangered Species Act, but no violations were found and no projects were stopped.
Still, the ESA has become a symbol of federal interference in the economy of the state. Only 17 percent of Arizona is privately owned, after all, with another 13 percent owned by the state government, whereas 28 percent is Indian land and 42 percent is controlled by federal agencies: the Forest Service, the Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Those federal agencies control most of the raw materials that fuel the state's extractive industries, and this has been a sore point for more than a century.
To set matters right, last April, Fife Symington sent out invitations to state and county officials; agriculture, timber and mining lobbies; legislative committee heads; businesses; and environmental groups to attend his "Land Policy 2000" forum, a platform he'd cooked up to take back control of Arizona lands from the federal agencies that manage them.
Symington didn't have "the intestinal fortitude" (as they say in the state legislature these days) to try to wrest control of the parks or the Indian land--both sacred cows in Washington, D.C. But "Land Policy 2000," the draft document he circulated to potential forum attendees, was so bold as to suggest that the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife and BLM holdings in Arizona be put under his control, along with the State Land and Game and Fish departments.
His stated intention was to cut down on duplication among the state and federal agencies and to make sensible decisions on land management. But the subtext, as usual, was all business. The first page of the document states, "This proposal is consistent with the Governor's philosophy of providing customer-focused governmental services and fulfills his desire to empower government employees to provide the most efficient, effective and responsive service with taxpayers' money."
The environmental groups, for the most part, boycotted the meeting. The Sierra Club's letter to the governor read, "Overall this appears to be simply a grab for control of public lands with the goal of gutting enforcement of environmental programs. It is essentially the same as the 'Sagebrush Rebellion' of several years ago, in which antienvironmentalists like James Watt tried to get ownership of our public lands turned over to Western states at the urging of timber, mining and grazing interests."
Nevertheless, in mid-May, 70 or so state officials and industry representatives gathered in Flagstaff for the forum. They greeted the governor with a standing ovation when he scolded the environmentalists for having closed minds.
The federal agencies, meanwhile, were not exactly sure how to respond to Symington's proposal--so they didn't. The regional heads of the Forest Service passed on the proposal to Washington, D.C., because it was beyond their authority to comment on it. Not to mention pointless.
Although the Republican right wing loves to quote the Constitution as if it were Scripture, Symington had blundered into an area of questionable constitutionality.
Art Briggs is director of Ecosystem Management Planning for the Forest Service at its Southwest regional office in Albuquerque. "In the proposed agency command structure," he says with polite understatement, "the governor would be placed between the federal executive branch and the current federal land administrators, and we wondered about the constitutionality of that, because it goes beyond powers granted to the state by the Constitution."