Giant Sucking Trees
Three national forests in Arizona are among the nation's top 10 money losers when it comes to logging, according to a study conducted by the Wilderness Society.

The study, which covers fiscal 1996, states that Tonto (ranked second), Kaibab (fifth) and Coconino (ninth) national forests generated little revenue but high spending on timber programs. The Wilderness Society says that means timber industry in those forests is heavily subsidized by taxpayers.

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest ranked 34th out of 104 U.S. forests listed.

The Forest Service disputes the findings. Art Morrison, spokesman for the Forest Service's Southwestern Region in Albuquerque, says the numbers are "skewed" because a federal court injunction shut down almost all commercial logging in the region during 1996. He suggests that three Arizona and two New Mexico forests made the top 10 because logging revenue was sharply curtailed while certain fixed costs remained constant.

However, Morrison added, "I'm not saying that those forests [revenue] are above costs."

Marlin Johnson, acting director of forestry for the Southwestern Region, says, "Our program has never been designed to make any money--and it never has."

By the Forest Service's own reckoning, Johnson says, the Southwestern region--Arizona and New Mexico--lost $12 million on timber sales in 1995 and $8 million in 1994. Those figures don't include many expenses--road-building, administration--that the Wilderness Society takes into account.

The Arizona forests lost a total of $2.3 million on timber programs during 1996, according to the Wilderness Society. The figure nationally was $204 million.

Tonto returned $.03 for every tax dollar spent on its timber program, the society claims, while Kaibab brought in $.12 per dollar, Coconino $.18 and Apache-Sitgreaves $.43. Two other Arizona forests--Coronado and Prescott--had little or no logging during 1996, the study indicates.

"For every tax dollar spent to support commercial logging in [Tonto, Kaibab and Coconino] forests, taxpayers got back less than two dimes," says Suzanne Jones, assistant regional director of the society's Four Corners office. "It's insane."

Wilderness Society president Bill Meadows says, "From coast to coast, our national forests are losing money. The average American has to wonder why the government is paying timber corporations to mine our forests. We're losing a lot more than money as a result of this policy. We're also losing first-class recreation areas, wildlife habitat, fisheries and clean water."

The society notes that a measure to curb road-building subsidies died in Congress last year with Arizona's GOP representatives J.D. Hayworth, Bob Stump, Jim Kolbe, Matt Salmon and John Shadegg and senators John McCain and Jon Kyl voting to maintain the status quo. Only Democratic Representative Ed Pastor voted for the bill.

Rusty Saw
And speaking of trees, Arizona's Joint Committee on Capitol Review recently met to discuss the fate of ficuses that grow next to the historic Capitol building. It seems the foliage is imperiling the Venerable House of Luddites.

According to the inestimable Arizona Capitol Times, State Senator Rusty Bowers announced that he needed a "visual aid" for the debate and produced a chain saw from under the table.

The fact that pigeons use the trees as rest stops was noted. "Maybe we need to import as part of the landscape several falcons," that jokester Bowers quipped.

Representative Herschella Horton was not so jocular, noting rather poetically that "only God can make a tree."

Bowers: "God created trees, but unfortunately somebody else created the chain saw."

Senator John Wettaw: "Wouldn't it be funny if they found the spotted owl up there?" Now, that's an endangered species.

Fax and Send Liberals
Wondering why Arizona Democrats are in a malaise? The state "Senate Dems" faxed New Times the press release pictured at top. Twice.

Tough Cookies
The following item appeared in a recent New York Times pro-football Notebook column by Mike Freeman, headlined "Ill Will in Arizona."

Sometimes the most difficult part of turning an organization around has nothing to do with football. Sometimes it has everything to do with changing attitudes and not doing things to distract players from the main purpose: winning.

A stunning incident that involved the Arizona Cardinals late this season showed why Coach Vince Tobin is fighting an uphill battle to win there.

According to several people close to the situation, a family member of the Cardinals' owner, Bill Bidwill, asked the players' wives to bake cookies for a charity event. Many of them did. The wives were then asked to attend the function--cookies in hand--in the downtown Phoenix area. They were told the cookies would be given to the beneficiaries of the charity, mainly children.

When the wives arrived, they were shocked--and angered--to find only the board members of the charity present. The women were then asked to serve the cookies.

They were furious. Not only were no kids there, but the wives were also basically asked to be waitresses.

The players were so angered and distracted by the incident that Tobin had to call a team meeting to apologize to the players even though he had nothing to do with what happened.

The Cardinals could not be reached for comment.
Holiday cookies leading to angry players? These kinds of things rarely happen with winning organizations. Tobin, who finished the season with a 4-12 record, is a good coach who is trying to do something that the Cardinals' last five head coaches could not: win. But episodes like the great cookie caper make his job a lot harder.

As with the Times, the Cardinals did not return the Flash's phone calls seeking a comment on the incident and the Times dispatch.

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