Forest Chump

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Emily Garber predicts Dombeck's letter will be brief. "We really don't have a whole lot to comment on," she says. "The letter itself is primarily going to say that we're fully aware of the ethical conduct that we need to abide by, and stuff like that. We're not going to address the individual things that he talks about in that letter."

Jack Fraser already has. A wildlife biologist by training and president of the McDowell Park Association by title, Fraser heads the coalition of more than a dozen environmental and preservation groups that opposed the Spur Cross Ranch exchange. He got hold of a copy of McCain's letter and fired off a nine-page response last week.

Toward the end of his missive, after painstakingly picking McCain's letter apart, Fraser writes, "All I can say is thank heavens the Forest Service displayed outstanding integrity in sticking to a solid position despite heavy pressure to go along with a bad proposal. . . . The Service has an obligation to the public to uphold the law and to protect the public interest in public lands and that was precisely what it did with respect to the proposed Spur Cross land exchange."

One would hope Mike Dombeck feels the same way.

When the land swap fell through, the owners of Spur Cross Ranch vowed to bring on the bulldozers. So far, though, there's been no cactus mowing, thanks to a zigzag of time-chomping zoning lawsuits tying up the process.

With the Senate election behind him and the pressing need for both kinds of Green, will John McCain try to resurrect the Spur Cross exchange once again to help polish up his Teddy Roosevelt-savior-of-the-environment pose?

"We're watchful to see if anything's going to happen, but we haven't seen any indication that anything's going on," Emily Garber says. "But we'd probably be the last to know."

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at