Thursday, July 14, 2005

Monsoon madness

The July sun in Tucson can cause burning pain.
We look to the sky and call monsoon rain.

The lightning, the thunder.
It'll be great.

I'll be away from my blog until Aug. 8

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Rev. Fife on the long-haul for human rights

Everyone smart & cool is doing it, so here I go, with my salute to Rev. John Fife of Tucson. A respectable and honorable man.

A true humanitarian freedom fighter for good and justice.

John Fife has stepped away from the pulpit at his church, but not from protecting life in the borderlands. He and others who work with him will do a lot more good in years to come.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A great woman has died, Tanya Egan

Tanya Egan (Bridges) now rests in peace. A great woman, mother, wife, friend, and biologist who lived in the Mojave Desert with her family. Her rich and meaningful life was cut short by cancer.

Tanya did a lot of good for our troubled world. She'll be remembered and we'll miss her very much. It is a sad day.

Long live the spirit of Tanya Egan, and may we all carry her positive energy with us into the future.

Monday, July 11, 2005

More fire for health; LA Times backs bighorns

A tall cloud of smoke rose yesterday and today from the Santa Rita mountains south of Tucson. Last night flames were clearly visible from the city. A crown fire indeed. Sky Island ranges in the southwest need fire for forest and ecosystem health.

The Florida (flor-rit-a) fire is natural, started by lightning striking the scenic Santa Ritas on Friday. But the Forest Service wants to hop on almost every fire to risk it all, and spend big trying to put it out. They'll have little effect.

Any good firefighter will tell you that wildland fires go out when weather conditions change, like when humidity goes up, winds die or shift, or it rains. Nevertheless, the feds dispatch firefighters, hotshot crews, smokejumpers, air tankers, choppers, bulldozers, and backburns to chase the fire around.

The UA facility on the Santa Rita experimental range already has created defensible space to make it fire safe, the director was showing it off on TV recently, but still news crews insist firefighters are working to save it from burning down.

Unwisely, many cabins in Madera Canyon do not have defensible space, and fuels have built up due to past government fire suppression. Too many owners took no precautionary action, thinking Smoky will protect them, so we all pay both in money and lost forest health as the crews are called in.

When building owners take responsibility to fire-proof their property less fire fighters will be at risk as the forest can burn, and we'll save money to better manage public lands.

The federal fire effort is largely a jobs program in many western states. Some fires should be fought, including desert blazes and careless human-caused fires. But why not give some fire fighters restoration jobs?


On Saturday, the LA Times told the Bush Forest Service to do as I suggest: keep disease-spreading domestic sheep away from recovering Sierra Nevada bighorns.



Battle of the Bighorn

Over the last six years, a battle to save the endangered bighorn sheep has succeeded beyond the expectations of the state and federal agencies and advocacy groups that launched the project along the eastern Sierra Nevada in California and Nevada. The numbers of this unique species, separate from the desert bighorn in Southern California, have rebounded from about 100 to as many as 350. Now the state Fish and Game Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are considering a regulation that would allow them to trap or kill bighorns, ostensibly in order to save them. It's a classic case of bureaucratic wrongheadedness.

The aim is to protect the bighorns from catching fatal diseases, such as pneumonia, from domestic sheep that are allowed to graze in portions of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, home to about 20 of the wild sheep. Incredibly, the U.S. Forest Service still allows about 6,500 domestic sheep to graze on leases covering about 175,000 acres. That's a fraction of what it used to be, but enough to present a danger if the two species mingle. Then the Fish and Game Department would be summoned to trap or kill the bighorns to prevent them from infecting other wild sheep.

In summer, the nimble and elusive bighorns rock-hop as high as 14,000 feet in the Sierra. At times, however, they drop lower to graze. That's the danger zone.

Summer grazing of domestic sheep in the mountains was mostly phased out over the years as sheep-raising dwindled and recreation use of the forests mushroomed. "Locusts," John Muir called the herds, even though his first trip into the High Sierra was as a sheepherder.

To Daniel Patterson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, the answer is obvious and simple. "Get rid of the domestic sheep," he told The Times' Tim Reiterman.

The bureaucratic culprit here is neither the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nor state Fish and Game, but a U.S. Forest Service that insists on an anachronistic leasing program. The Forest Service says it will monitor both kinds of sheep over the next year in hopes of keeping them from mixing. But who knows how many bighorns might have to be quarantined or killed to see if they are ill?

The service should do as Patterson suggested. The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest covers 6.3 million acres, the largest forest outside of Alaska. Surely officials can find a safer place for the sheep to graze.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Nations that live by the bomb die by the bomb

No one killed or injured today in London deserved it, but Tony Blair's arrogance and stupidity in joining Bush in the Iraq war likely brought this tragic terrorist attack to the UK.

The Iraq war has done little to curb terrorism, instead it stimulates hatred and new terrorists. Unbalanced one-sided support for Israel over a just solution for Palestine also fuels terrorism.

As Bush, Blair and others push war, citizens of their nations become targets. No thanks, gentlemen. You live and travel in bombproof security while the rest of us face growing risks due to your unwise actions.

To put out the fire of terrorism, we must stop throwing the fuel of mid-east war on it.

Only through peace, fairness, and minding our own business will we stop this deadly madness.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Support strike against ASARCO's unethical greed

Mine workers in Arizona are striking against mining giant ASARCO, owned by parent corporation Grupo Mexico. ASARCO wants to cut pay and benefits at a time copper is at high prices and profits are growing.

Most mining corporations have always been bad to their workers and the environment, but El Grupo is particularly notorious. The company smashed a miner rebellion in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico. There the mine abuses the land and water, putting workers, local children, rivers and wildlife at risk.

ASARCO has also torn up many areas around Tucson, including the Silverbell and Sierrita Mountains.

I'm with the miners on this, and I know some of the local Steelworkers Union reps. They are good guys. There is unified concern against ASARCO's unethical abuse of workers and the environment. I may try to join their picket line soon if I can.

The strike against ASARCO is a struggle for worker respect and challenge to abusive corporate practices so common with globalization. I say 'shut 'em down', but that may ultimately mean toublesome Arizona mines will be closed so El Grupo can mine more in South America, where they will try to be even more abusive to people and nature.

ASARCO is based in Tucson in a three-story copper plated building just east of Pima Community College's downtown campus, one block north of Speedway, and one block east of Stone.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The new old west of Cochise County

Spent the long family weekend down in Cochise County, the 'old west' as tourism types promote.

Many 'new west' ranchettes springing up near Sierra Vista, and too close to the San Pedro River. Not much water in the Old San P this weekend. I hope the river won't die.

Independence Day in Bisbee. Saw some friends. Fun, and some real southwestern Americana. Fire trucks blaring sirens in the parade, which was mostly tasteful except for the hicks with the jacked up chevy truck and confederate flag.

Kid water fun and music in the Warren park. Hand drilling contest in Brewery Gulch -- pound a rock for 10 minutes with a hammer and chisel to see who can make the deepest hole. It is an old mining tradition, kinda like Bisbee, with all the toxic mine tailings piles around and the pit. I did see some 'Fight Phelps Dodge' grafitti in town. Good idea.

Watched wild Gould's turkeys launching and flying to high sycamore tops in Ramsey Canyon at sundown. Very cool. About 10 of them, big ones. I thought about how I could hunt one somewhere else for Thanksgiving, but probably wont.

Huachuca Mountains looking green, and needing fire in some places. Gazed in to Sonora, but didn't go this time. Thanks, Frank, for the view.

Cochise County, a pretty nice place we should not spoil.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Will moderates fight Bush court nominee?

Get ready to fight to keep the right-wing zealot Bush nominates off the US Supreme Court.

Expect Bush to pick someone rather extreme, with legal views hostile to abortion rights, environment, civil liberties, and labor; a John Ashcroft type. Perhaps a polite but far right woman, to deflect criticism from shifty liberals.

Does anyone really expect Bush to nominate a moderate? If so, I haven't heard it. About as likely as the US military getting out of Iraq this year.

Expect GOP Senators, and even some dems to support whoever the President proposes. 'Just give the nominee an up or down vote' they will say, arguing against possible filibuster attempts.

Dem leader Sen. Reid (D-NV) says he doesn't expect a big fight. Bad sign.

Have the dems gone spineless on this already? Will the 'save the filibuster' agreement come back to haunt us all?

Justice O'Connor, welcome back to Arizona, and thanks for the years of service. Your fair, independent and sometimes moderate views will be missed on the court.

UA will benefit from your teaching. Good opinion this session in favor of medical marijuana rights.