By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"Land Policy 2000" never made it past the first draft, but, like most bad ideas, it didn't completely die. Rather, it became Symington's environmental Mein Kampf.
In his State of the State message, Symington vowed that he had not forgotten "Land Policy 2000." Rumors circulated that it would take smaller form, limited to state agencies. Symington had already appointed a former John McCain staffer named Ed Sanchez to look into agency consolidation. Sanchez was installed in the State Land Department, as he says, "spearheading the effort, accumulating information, looking at the different agencies and getting feedback from interest groups."
One wonders whom he talked to, because none of the directors of the affected agencies was consulted. None has yet seen the resultant draft legislation or even been told that it exists.
Duane Shroufe of Game and Fish, Ken Travous of State Parks and H. Mason Coggins of Mines and Mineral Resources all say that neither Sanchez nor the governor has talked to them about restructuring their departments.
Art Porter, chairman of the Game and Fish Commission--and a Symington appointee--says he has received one call from the Governor's Office in his four years as a commissioner, and that had to do with elk in Flagstaff. Porter and Shroufe did manage to catch a half-hour of Speaker Killian's time in the last two weeks, but they did not talk in depth about the proposed department restructuring.
Tom Woods of the Heritage Alliance claims that the Governor's Office will not even answer his letters.
Sanchez had scheduled an appointment with New Times to further discuss the matter, but then called back to say that "his boss," State Land Commissioner M. Jean Hassell, and the Governor's Office had ordered him not to talk to the newspaper. Hassell refused to return calls.
Milo Jean Hassell, so the rumor goes, would be Symington's choice for natural-resources czar in charge of the Department of Natural Resources he would create. His last job was as regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service in Albuquerque. He was first appointed State Land commissioner by Evan Mecham, and has been reappointed by every governor, including Symington, since.
Hassell is of the old school of foresters. According to a former colleague in the Forest Service, he was a devotee of "getting out the cut" to meet high-volume logging quotas. One Game and Fish employee jokes, "His idea of managing the forest was cropping them like wheat. We used to call him Mr. Even-Age Management," a reference to the since-abandoned practice of taking high numbers of same-size trees. "Environmentalists want to make waitresses out of all the loggers," Hassell once told a daily-newspaper reporter. And in a recent letter, he assured State Representative David Farnsworth that Arizona would still have plenty of trees to cut if it weren't for the interference of environmentalist groups.
Not surprisingly, the State Land Department that Hassell now presides over is a virtual clearinghouse for developers. Its charter requires that the State Land Department "maximize income from the sale and use of land," and since 1978, its emphasis has been on sales, especially for urban and commercial development. One need go no farther than north Scottsdale to see how pristine desert once owned by the state is being rapidly churned into golf courses and housing developments.
Last year, the State Land Department claimed $68.7 million in revenues from land sales and leases, money that, by law, goes to public schools. Before money can be similarly squeezed out of the rest of the state's resources, the Game and Fish Department needs to be harnessed. Hassell has hinted at his disdain for that department and what he considers its obstructionist appeals. Never mind that the last Game and Fish appeal to a timber sale occurred in 1990, during a period of record timber cutting. More and more, the department is pointed to as a stick in the eye of the extractive industries, as a symbol of environmentalist obstacles to a booming state economy.
Before 1929, wildlife management amounted to setting hunting and fishing seasons, and all decisions were made by the legislature. As a result, many big-game species--not to mention predators such as the Mexican wolf--had already vanished from the state.
Native elk and Rocky Mountain sheep had disappeared by the turn of the century, and desert bighorn sheep were vanishing rapidly.
So concerned sportsmen lobbied to form the Game and Fish Commission, a panel of five citizens from different parts of the state. The commissioners would then hire a professional director and oversee the workings of the department, shielding it from the direct influence of politics. But since the governor would appoint one new commissioner every year, and one would drop out, he could effect change over time.
In 1990, the general electorate voted to establish the Heritage Fund, $20 million to be split between the Game and Fish and State Parks departments. That neither the governor nor the legislature has control over that money has been a festering sore--not so much because of spending by the State Parks Department, which uses much of its share to help small communities establish local parks, but because of the Game and Fish Department's environmental work. The Arizona Game and Fish Department is widely recognized as one of the finest state wildlife-management agencies in the country. It not only sells hunting and fishing licenses, sets seasons and monitors sportsmen, but it also rides herd on the extractive industries. Game and Fish dictates which predators ranchers can kill, and generally forbids them to take elk and deer, which compete for forage with livestock. Furthermore, the department's biologists research and disseminate information on nongame animals, which include threatened and endangered species. The agency may also purchase sensitive habitat to ensure survival of those species.