Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Drilling & mining in store for 2 iconic SW parks

NPS should do more to protect parks like Petrified Forest from drilling and mining.

TUCSON -- Drilling and mining may soon harm Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona and Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico, according to an internal Interior Department document released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Only plummeting commodity prices caused by the current recession, not any National Park Service actions, have delayed groundbreaking for new natural gas wells and potash mining in or adjacent to the parks.

Read more...

OTHER COVERAGE: Santa Fe New Mexican

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Obama should tap reformers to clean up US Interior

Arizonan Martha Hahn 'nominated' as next BLM director.

TUCSON -- The Obama transition should reach out to reformers and whistleblowers to transform the scandal-wracked US Department of Interior, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Under President Bush, corporate penetration into the top echelons at Interior resulted in a prison term for its number-two official, losses of billions in oil royalty dollars and scandals ranging from sex and drug parties to unprecedented political manipulation of science.

Read more...

Monday, December 29, 2008

World majority calls for Gaza ceasefire, minus US

Wounded child in Gaza.

LONDON & NEW YORK -- Most of the world, including the UK and the Pope, is calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, where at least 1600 people have been wounded or killed by Israeli air strikes since Saturday. In Israel, 4 people have been killed by rockets from Gaza.

Hamas militants firing rockets in to Israel is not right, and won't work. The mighty deadly Israeli military attacking Gaza is not right, and won't work. Too many are being killed all around, and a horrific all-out war seems possible.

As usual, too bad many US politicians are issuing one-sided statements totally backing the Israeli government, which is also not right and won't work.

Many Israelis, Palestinians and people worldwide want peace in the region, but they must convince their governments to make peace, with compromise and US and others' help.

Only a fair settlement between Israel and the Palestinians will improve security and stop the violence, and that can likely only happen when the US takes a more balanced approach in the region.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Progressive, Goldwater Inst. agree on prison cuts

Cut prison spending, not schools.

TUCSON -- As a progressive Democrat, I don't often agree with the conservative Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute (GI). However, I listen and I am fiscally responsible, with an emphasis on solving problems and helping people, and I'll bring these qualities to the State House starting Jan 12.

I must acknowledge GI for putting it's ideas before lawmakers, as it has recently done with a Dec 18 policy brief on the Arizona budget. On page 12 of the 30 page document, GI proposes cutting the Arizona Dept. of Corrections (prisons) by $96.2M, saying '...state prisons are notoriously full of nonviolent offenders, and zero-tolerance laws may well have over-stepped fiscal propriety.' I agree with this as a good start to help balance our budget, although there is much I disagree with in the rest of the GI brief.

I will work toward fairly balancing the state budget, and I won't support cuts that hurt Arizona's most at-risk people, but I have yet to hear in detail about balancing the budget from many progressive organizations that work the Capitol. I hope some are working on a plan and will get it to legislators soon.

On the lobbying side, GI may be getting out front on this number one issue for Arizona's 49th Legislature, the budget. I agree with bringing Arizona's bloated prison budgets back toward fiscal reality, and I call on progressives to step up soon with some suggested budget solutions.

The good news is the common ground for AZ prison spending reforms.

OTHER RECENT AZ LEG. TOPICS: water, education, SoAZ, new members, district 29/committees.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fossil Creek, Forest Service and fixing AZ water law

Fossil Creek AZ.

PHOENIX -- The Republic has an important article today about protecting Fossil Creek now and long-term, quoting my friend and river advocate Michelle Harrington.

APS did the right thing by removing their dam and letting the creek flow again. Now, the Coconino National Forest must better manage the landscape around Fossil Creek, including keeping off-road vehicles and livestock out, limiting roads, designating parking and campsites, and setting a reasonable carrying capacity that will be effectively monitored and enforced.

Finally, the Forest Service should better manage Fossil Creek without making it a controversial fee area.

Another big need for long-term protection of spring-fed Fossil Creek and other threatened Arizona waters is changing outdated state water law to recognize the proven connections between groundwater and surface waters. As a member of the House Water and Energy Committee, I will work collaboratively and try to better protect our water future.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Government workers minding the store

PEER protects employees who protect the environment.

WASHINGTON -- Geologist Robert M. Thorson thanks Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), where I serve as ecologist and Tucson-based southwest director.

We have big plans for 2009, and I ask you to also please thank and help PEER by making a donation, which is tax deductible. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy holidays, merry Christmas and best for 09

I'm dreaming of a desert Christmas.

TUCSON -- I may be away from my blog some days until Jan 5, enjoying family time, trains and the great outdoors.

Be sure to check back in 2009 for resumed daily coverage. I'll start reporting from the State Capitol in Phoenix on Jan 12 as a new Arizona State Representative.

Here is a John Denver Christmas song I've liked since I was a young child, posted as inspired by AzBlueMeanie. When I was little, my dad used to play us a Christmas record with this on it. I'm no big ranching fan, but as an ecologist who has spent a lot of time in the remote beautiful wide open west alone and with friends and family, I enjoy this song and find it moving during the holidays.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Utah activist 'bidding' disrupts BLM oil & gas sale

Bush BLM's view of your public lands.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Great job by Utahan Tim DeChristopher, who on Friday with a friend creatively disrupted a US Bureau of Land Management holiday sale for the oil and gas industry.

Before they are removed from power on Jan 20, the corrupt Bush-Cheney Interior Department and its BLM are in a mad rush to sell as much of your land as possible, at insanely low prices, to big polluting oil and gas corporations.

Time to go: BLM Utah State Director Selma Sierra.

Wasting no time wrecking other western lands, dirty BLM rushed Monday to hand out permits for a controversial new giant polluting coal plant in the Great Basin Desert of Nevada.

It remains to be seen if and how President Obama and his 'wise use' Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will truly stop reckless oil, gas and coal plunder across America's fragile and scenic public lands.

BLM needs a major shake up at Washington HQ and state, district and field offices, including the retirement of BLM's #2 man in DC, Henri Bisson.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Thanks, Steve Leal, Ward 5 City Councilman

Thanks for your service, Councilman Leal.

TUCSON -- Long-time City Councilman Steve Leal will not run for re-election in 2009. When Steve steps off the council next year, he will have served 20 years.

Steve has helped me and my neighborhood in many ways over the years, and I wish him the best.

As my family and I live in south downtown in Ward 5, I will closely watch the contest for the Leal's seat, which should be an interesting local race for 2009.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tucson 'bypass' highway bad idea, waste of money

So-called 'bypass' is really about more urban sprawl.

PHOENIX -- Some urban sprawlers won't take 'no' for an answer as they keep pushing for a so-called I-10 'bypass' highway around Tucson, cutting across a huge area of undeveloped Sonoran Desert lands in Pima and Pinal Counties.

Si Schorr and the AZ Transportation Board refused to hear public comment today, and ADoT now intends to spend lots of our money on another expensive 'study' of the unwise route, at the same time Arizona is considering cuts to education and health care.

This is simply unacceptable.

In reality, there is no such thing as clean coal

Part of the solution: wind and solar powered city street lighting, seen here in China.

WASHINGTON -- An important new truth campaign has been launched about the myth of so-called 'clean coal'.

Polluters have been hyping some serious BS about coal, including the 'clean coal carolers', which the big coal lobby has pulled from its website and PR campaign.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Changing debate on immigration and the economy

Experts say a one-year pause in immigration would reduce GDP by $171B and cause 1M legal US workers to lose their jobs.

TUCSON -- There's a consensus among economists and policy analysts that immigrant labor benefits the economy on whole -- and dramatically so. And while the beneficial role of immigrant labor in the economy may be muted now, as demand for labor is relatively weak, speakers at the recent "Immigration and the Economy" forum in Phoenix suggested that the negative effects of curbing immigration may well be felt more acutely when the economy rebounds.

Participants in the forum -- which was co-sponsored by the Arizona State University WP Carey School of Business, The University of Arizona and others -- agreed that the "character" of immigration has changed since the US government began cracking down on illegal immigration, especially in US-Mexico border states like Arizona. That has altered the way immigration effects the economy, participants said -- and likely not for the better.

Read more...

- from ASU

AZ House Dems protect families and quality of life

Tucson fourth-grader Josh Zaragoza (left), gets support from his mother, Teri Zaragoza, and brother Cody, on the first day of this school year.

TUCSON -- I had the experience of a lifetime this fall.

Not only was I elected to serve the people of Tucson’s south and southeast sides as a State Representative, but I also took my 6-year-old daughter to her first day of first grade.

Just like other parents, I’ll never forget seeing my daughter enter the “big-kid world,” as she called it, and she couldn’t wait to start learning.

But my daughter’s school, part of the Tucson Unified School District, faces major budget trouble like many other Arizona schools. This year, her principal must try to serve two schools.

Our kids deserve better.

I have the opportunity at the State Capitol to help her, and other families and their children, whose educational future hangs in the balance of cuts from this year’s budget. We face potential cuts in all-day kindergarten and our state universities, when our state remains at the bottom in the nation when it comes to student-teacher ratios and funding. It’s common sense: better education means stronger businesses and jobs in Arizona, boosting our economy. When the greatest untapped resource we have is the minds of our children, we simply can’t afford more cuts to education.

The Arizona legislature has to work together to tackle the difficult task of balancing the budget. House Speaker-elect Adams said he plans to work in a bipartisan way to solve the deficit we face, and I’m looking forward to making sure that he fulfills that pledge. Budget negotiations should be an open process and I look forward to bringing Tucson’s concerns to the table.

I recognize the hard choices we face here in Arizona, and while we must deal with the immediate budget crisis, we need to work on economic stimulus packages so we can help get out of this recession fast and strong.

These are tough times, but I will continue to put the interests of children and working people first. We need to continue to preserve vital investments in Arizona’s future instead of cuts that will hold us back. That includes no budget cuts for educating our kids, keeping them safe and having a stronger economy.

We are fortunate that the Solon solar plant in district 29 opened this year, and I was pleased to attend the opening. This solar company will create hundreds of clean jobs for our economy when we need them the most. In times of massive layoffs, this is a blessing for our community. Not only does it directly benefit people in Pima County by giving a boost to our economy, but the plant is helping power America with clean, renewable energy that will move us toward energy independence.

Those are the right kinds of priorities to protect as we work to put the interests of our children and middle-class families first. I also want to protect education, health care and high-tech jobs to boost our economy for all people.

In budget negotiations, we have to defend our necessities and use precise cuts, not a blunt axe to trim our budget into workable form that will allow us to eliminate the deficit.

Fortunately, in the House Democrats, we have reasonable, hard-working representatives who want to work in a bipartisan manner for economic justice to make sure working people and kids are protected in tough times.

As my daughter begins an educational journey that will shape her future, I want to make sure, as many other parents do, that she has a good future right here in Arizona, and I’ll work hard to make sure that she and every other Arizona child gets it.

Tucson Citizen: Education, economic stimulus should be priorities

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Former AZGFD staffer wins eco fellowship for birds

Restored habitat on the Salt River as part of the Rio Salado project.

PHOENIX -- An Arizona woman who formerly worked with the AZ Game and Fish Department is the recipient of a new national fellowship designed to advance the work of individuals with outstanding potential to help shape a brighter environmental future.

Vashti "Tice" Supplee is one of only 40 people selected from competitors nationwide for the TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Program.

Fellows receive specialized training in conservation planning and execution, the chance to work and share best practices with gifted conservation professionals, and assistance with project outreach and evaluation. Each Fellow will also receive $10,000 towards a community-focused project to engage local residents in conserving land, water and energy, and contributing to greater environmental health. Supplee will focus her efforts on establishing a Center for Bird Conservation at the new Rio Salado Nature Center near downtown Phoenix.

In partnership with Phoenix College, South Mountain Community College and Mesa Community College, students will develop maps of key bird habitat around the state and identify areas where birds are most threatened. Building off of the data they have collected, students will create action plans to protect birds and their habitat, working with Audubon chapters around the state to implement them. The students will come away with important technological skills, a stronger understanding of conservation and the most pressing threats to Arizona's wildlife, and the knowledge that they can have a big impact on conservation efforts – encouraging them to get involved in the future. The efforts of the Fellows will aid people and wildlife around 39 cities in 24 different states.

Southern Arizona caucus possible in legislature

A bi-partisan team for SoAZ at the Capitol?

TUCSON -- 11 diverse members of the Arizona House and Senate from southern Arizona districts gathered Dec 13 in a friendly, bi-partisan style, to socialize and consider a new southern Arizona caucus.

The influential group plans to keep in touch and meet at least once a month during the upcoming legislative session to try to stay unified on issues critical to the people of southern Arizona.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

20 new Arizona House members meet at Capitol

AZ House floor.

PHOENIX -- Arizona's 20 newly-elected State House members met for two days recently at the Capitol in preparation for taking office January 12, 2009. Everyone got along pretty well.

I'm pleased to have landed a decent office and a strategically-located seat on the House floor.

New Representatives will make up 33% of the House, a powerful block if enough of us stick together on some issues. Certainly there will be some disagreements, but we'll need to cooperate in the legislature to solve Arizona's economic and budget problems.

OTHER COVERAGE: Arizona Capitol Times: 'Meeting the legislative council and other House staff was important, said District 29 Democrat Daniel Patterson of Tucson, because “you need to know the people and start building those relationships.”

AZ House committees announced, LD29 does well

Arizona State Capitol.

PHOENIX -- House Speaker-elect Kirk Adams (R-Mesa) has announced committee assignments for the 49th Legislature.

I'm pleased to have been picked to serve on two important and influential committees: Water and Energy, chaired by Lucy Mason (R-Prescott), and Military Affairs and Public Safety, chaired by Jerry Weiers (R-Glendale).

I will work cooperatively on these committees and in the House to solve problems, help people and build bridges for positive change.

My seatmate Matt Heinz will serve on Appropriations, and Public Employees, Retirement and Entitlement Reform.

In the Senate, Linda Lopez of LD29 has been elected the Democratic whip as part of the leadership team.

The people of district 29 across Tucson's downtown, south and southeast sides will be well represented.

More good news for LD29 is the recent election of Laura Elias de la Torre as our new Chairwoman.

Industry likes Salazar at Obama Interior, not greens

Ken Salazar (left) supporting Bush's disgraced AG Alberto Gonzalez.

UPDATE, Wed. Dec 17: I congratulate Sen. Salazar and offer him my help in the interest of conservation. I'll give him a chance, even though I don't think he's the best choice.

OTHER COVERAGE: Arizona Daily Star, Grijalva talks about Interior pick; Tucson Citizen, Why did Obama forsake Grijalva?; International Herald Tribune, Praise and Criticism for Proposed Interior Secretary; New York Times, Environmentalists Wary of Obama's Interior Pick.

TUCSON -- It appears likely President-elect Barack Obama and his controversial Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will nominate conservative Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado to head the US Dept. of Interior.

Since no official announcement has yet been made, I urge Obama to make a better pick. Overall, I and other American conservationists who deal with Interior are disturbed, but mining, livestock, argibusiness and other industries who have dominated Interior for years are excited about Salazar, which should worry anyone concerned with the public-interest.

While Salazar has promoted a few decent environmental actions, his overall record is decidedly mixed, and is especially weak in the arenas most important to the next Secretary of the Interior: protecting scientific integrity, combating global warming, reforming energy development and protecting endangered species.

Salazar has voted against increased fuel efficiency standards for the US automobile fleet; voted to end protection for offshore oil drilling off of Florida’s coast; voted to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to ignore global warming impacts in their water development projects; voted against the repeal of tax breaks for ExxonMobil; voted to support subsidies the livestock industry and other users of public forest and BLM lands; threatened to sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service when its scientists determined the black-tailed prairie dog may be endangered; and fought efforts to increase protection for endangered species and the environment in the Farm Bill.

Some comments from Interior experts about Ken Salazar, with more coming out every hour:

From Reuters: Big oil executive 'BP America Chairman and President Robert Malone... expressed approval for U.S. Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado, Obama's nominee for secretary of the interior... Also, Malone called for access to the Outer Continental Shelf for energy exploration...'

From NPR: 'The only ones pleased with the rumored pick were those in the agriculture and mining industries. During the campaign these folks, generally, were counted as supporters of Republican John McCain.'

"Salazar is the first name mentioned that we could support," said Laura Skaer, executive director of the Northwest Mining Association.

"Of all the names mentioned, Salazar is the one we're happiest with,"
said Dan Keppen, head of the Family Farm Alliance. Note: Keppen was formerly the head of Klamath Water Users Association, the group that worked with the Bush administration to manipulate science and overturn salmon restoration efforts in the Klamath Basin (leading to the deaths of as many as 70,000 salmon before they could spawn in September of 2002). His current group was launched to be the lobby front for agribusiness interests that get Bureau of Reclamation water.

From the Arizona Daily Star: Patrick Bray of the (anti-conservation) Arizona Cattlemen's Association on Salazar, "We feel that he understands the issues very well and that he would be a very viable candidate."

Colorado wildlife biologist Dr. Nicole Rosmarino in Denver: "Ken Salazar does not bring the change we need at Interior. Salazar will not take strong stances on behalf of science and environmental protection and is not up to the task of undoing the enormous damage the Bush administration has done to public lands, endangered species, and the credibility of the Department of the Interior over the last 8 years."

Also in the Star: Jon Marvel of the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project says: Salazar "will completely undermine Obama's message of change. He will not bring change to the public lands of the western United States." He called the appointment "a travesty."

Coloradan Rob Edward of WildEarth Guardians says: "President Elect Obama is set to stick it to wildlife and public lands in the West, by appointing Senator (and rancher) Ken Salazar to head the Department of the Interior."

Arizonan Ron Kearns, a former wildlife biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, an Interior Dept. agency, says: "As a 30-year Republican, I will regret having voted for Obama if this happens."

Coloradan Phil Doe, who formerly worked with Interior agency Bureau of Reclamation says of Salazar: "He's green washed himself of late with his stand on the BLM oil and gas leases, but he is at bottom the same cautious careerist he always has been, aimlessly testing each decision for its potential impact on his slow steady rise to the top of the pond.

"He is anathema to many Dems here, especially for his support of the the war, his avuncular embrace of the little torture maestro,
(Alberto) Gonzalez.., and his insistence that he is the senator for rural America. The latter is code for big ranching and farming America, the same people who are rewarded lavishly every year with a bundle of goodies from Washington. It sure as hell doesn't mean rural labor, among the poorest of the working poor. ...he is outright disliked by activist Dems.

"One thing is for sure, he would make the traditional big farm and ranch interests happy. And it is probably from this group that his name surfaced.
From my own vantage, I would make book that the O man's promise of infrastructural restoration in the west would mean more dams and probably some irrigation at the public's expense if Salazar could influence the nature of the expenditures, and why couldn't he. He ain't much, and there is a place reserved in hell for his kind, the parsers. The O man needs to toss the west a bone, and Salazar sure as hell isn't it."

Arizonan Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity says: "The Department of the Interior desperately needs a strong, forward looking, reform-minded Secretary. Unfortunately, Ken Salazar is not that man. He endorsed George Bush's selection of Gale Norton as Secretary of Interior, the very woman who initiated and encouraged the scandals that have rocked the Department of Interior. Virtually all of the misdeeds described in yesterday's Inspector General expose occurred during the tenure of the person Ken Salazar advocated for the position he is now seeking."

"Obama’s choices for Secretary of Energy and his Climate Change Czar indicate a determined willingness to take on global warming. That team will be weakened by the addition of Ken Salazar who has fought against federal action on global warming, against higher fuel efficiency standards, and for increased oil drilling and oil subsidies."

Also from Suckling: 'In addition to his misstep on Norton, Salazar endorsed the elevation of William Myers III to the federal bench. Myers was a former Interior Department Solicitor and lobbyist for the ranching industry. Senator Leahy called him ''the most anti-environmental candidate for the bench I have seen in 37 years in the Senate." Bizarrely, Salazar praised Myers' "outstanding legal reasoning" regarding endangered species, Indian affairs, federal lands and water, timber, and fish and wildlife issues. The American Bar Association rated Meyers as "not qualified." Salazar later supported Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General, introducing him at his Senate confirmation hearing.'

"One of the most important jobs of the Secretary of the Interior is to help pick dozens of critically important political appointees to oversee America's conservation system. His past misjudgments of Norton, Meyers and Gonzales give us little confidence he will choose wisely in the future," says Suckling.


As an ecologist and supporter of Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva as the best choice for Interior, at this time I'm wary of Salazar, but I will give him a chance to change his ways if he is nominated and confirmed as Secretary.

If Obama nominates Salazar, add it to the questionable pick of Lisa Jackson for EPA for a somewhat shaky start for his energy and environmental agenda.


With all due respect Mr. Obama and transition team, these picks are not the most courageous, and are not 'the change we need or can believe in'
on energy and the environment.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bush Forest Service hits bighorn for ranchers

The Bush bighorn rule is "...absolutely unworkable," said Dale Toweill, the wildlife coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

TUCSON -- The outgoing Bush-Cheney Forest Service has issued a controversial and unpopular new rule that will harm bighorn sheep conservation and recovery across the west. Western states are especially upset with the rule.

Add this political favor, this time in service to the livestock industry, to the long list of corrupt Bush anti-conservation mistakes the Obama-Biden administration should correct soon after taking office in 2009.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

BLM disses Congress, AZ on Grand Canyon mining

Bush Interior Sec. Dirk Kempthorne has dragged Interior and BLM to new lows.

WASHINGTON -- The shameful Bush-Cheney US Bureau of Land Management is trying to end the authority of Congress to challenge mining on public lands when “an emergency situation exists and extraordinary measures must be taken to preserve values that would otherwise be lost.”

Congress recently used this authority for only the 6th time in 32 years, in response to broad public opposition to BLM and Forest Service moves to allow uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and Colorado River in Arizona.

Congress and the Obama-Biden administration should not allow this abuse of power to stand.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Mexico town supports Mexican wolf center

View of Silver City from Boston Hill.

SILVER CITY NM -- The Town Council approved support Tuesday for an educational Mexican wolf center to be located in Grant County.

A similar center located in a small Minnesota town employees 20 people and attracts 50,000 people a year, pumping $3 million annually into the local economy.

Good work on this by
Kevin Bixby of the Southwest Environmental Center in Las Cruces NM, and many others.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

Greens galvanize behind Grijalva for Interior Sec.

GREEN GROUPS GALVANIZE BEHIND GRIJALVA
FOR INTERIOR SECRETARY
107+ Groups Say AZ Congressman Is Right Person to Reform Troubled Agency

Fri. Dec 12: 141 American conservation orgs now want Grijalva.

Tues. Dec 9: Media coverage nationwide, also on the blogs (both links continuously updated).

UPDATE, 6pm: 130 conservation organizations now officially backing Grijalva for Interior.

WASHINGTON -- A large, influential and growing coalition of conservation organizations is building behind naming Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) as the next Secretary of the Interior, according to a support letter from more than 100 groups sent to President-elect Obama and released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Rep. Grijalva now chairs the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands which has jurisdiction over Interior Department matters.

The 107-groups, based in states ranging from New York and Virginia to Colorado and California, who signed this latest letter represents some of the fast-developing support for Grijalva spanning wildlife, land protection and good government groups, as well as among congressional colleagues, notably Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) who chairs the Natural Resources Committee. Scientists, tribes and Latino organizations are also backing Grijalva.

Among the pluses highlighted in the new conservation support letter is that Rep. Grijalva has a depth and breadth of experience in complex natural resource issues at federal, state, tribal and county levels. In particular, the letter cites his –

• Assembling what is regarded as one of the most “far sighted endangered species protection plans in the nation” that minimized the need for litigation that has plagued Interior;

• Expertise in drought management, a growing condition in the parched West; and

• Leadership in “pressing Interior and other federal agencies to integrate global warming issues into their planning and permitting”.

“Representative Grijalva is widely respected, with excellent state and local relations, and a proven record of fairness, ethics and conservation,” stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, who is a newly elected Arizona State Representative who formerly worked with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which controls the most acreage of any Interior agency. “Congressman Grijalva understands wildlife and outdoors issues, as well as energy, water, tribes and natural resources management.”

The next Interior Secretary will take over an agency badly shaken by ethics scandals which saw, among other things, the imprisonment of its top deputy, losses of tens of billions of dollars from under-collection of oil royalties and, most recently, revelation of sex and drug parties involving key Interior employees and oil company executives.

“Interior desperately need new leadership to restore ethics, science and responsibility, and Rep. Grijalva has shown that he knows what needs to done,” Patterson added, pointing to a recent report compiled by Rep. Grijalva outlining problems plaguing Interior operations. “Throughout his career, Raúl Grijalva has demonstrated that he is a deft problem solver.”

Letter signatories include Oregon Wild, Grand Canyon Trust, Californians for Western Wilderness, The Fund for Horses, Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, Maricopa Audubon Society, Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, and Conservation Voters of New Mexico.

- PEER news release

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Grijalva leading candidate for Obama's Interior

Congressman Grijalva is the best choice for US Interior Secretary.

UPDATE, 12/4: Even more support for Grijalva.

TUCSON -- US Rep. Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona is the leading candidate to head Obama's Interior Dept., reports the Wall Street Journal.

This is encouraging.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Gov's Council OKs new protections for AZ waters

Fossil Creek AZ

RELATED STORY, 12/3: Pima County hands out mining permit for Davidson Canyon.

PHOENIX -- Today, the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council approved adoption of the Final Rule for new surface water quality standards for Arizona’s rivers, streams, and lakes. It was approved on a 3-1 vote.

“We are pleased that the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council approved this rule to protect Arizona’s waters despite a last minute attempt to derail it by some mining interests, Pima County, Salt River Project, and other industry representatives,” said Sandy Bahr, Conservation Outreach Director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. “Adoption of this rule is an important step forward to provide stronger standards for water quality, helping to ensure that both the public’s health and the quality of the environment are adequately protected.”

The rule will be final 60 days from today and includes important provisions to designate Fossil Creek and Davidson Canyon as Outstanding Arizona Waters. Designation as an Outstanding Arizona Water means the government cannot permit actions that will degrade the water quality of these creeks. Fossil Creek is a major tributary of the Verde River and forms the boundary to the Coconino National Forest on the north and the Tonto National Forest on the south as well as the boundary between Gila and Yavapai counties. In 2005, full flows were restored to the creek when the Arizona Public Service agreed to decommission its dam. The creek supports a diversity of plants and wildlife, including native fishes. Davidson Canyon, in Pima County southeast of Tucson, is a main tributary of Cienega Creek, which is also designated as an Outstanding Arizona Water. The canyon contains spring-fed perennial water and cottonwood-willow riparian habitat that provides homes to numerous species of wildlife.

“The Sierra Club strongly supports designation of both Davidson Canyon and Fossil Creek as Outstanding Arizona Waters to ensure that these unique areas are protected for future generations of Arizonans as well as for the plants and wildlife they sustain,” said Bahr. “Water is precious in our desert environment, and we need to ensure that these ribbons of life are given the care they deserve.”

The Pinal Creek Group (representing mining interests), Cal Portland Cement, Superstition Mountain Facility District #1, and Pima County, among other entities, were seeking a delay of the rule as they opposed some of the more protective standards, including those that protect the biological integrity of the waters. The Ak Chin Tribe, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Vail Preservation Society, Empire Fagan Coalition, and Save the Scenic Santa Ritas Coalition, among others, joined the Sierra Club in supporting the rule package.

- from SC

Sonoran Pronghorn rising, but DHS still big threat

Sonoran Pronghorn, the fast ghost of the desert.

AJO AZ -- The endangered Sonoran Pronghorn is having a better year, with an estimated population in Arizona at 124 animals, up from just 21 a few years ago.

Much of the credit for the improvement goes to staff at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge for working hard for pronghorn, and keeping border walls off the refuge, although border activity is still a major threat to pronghorn.

Jim Atkinson of the US Fish and Wildlife Service refuge staff said extended droughts in the pronghorn habitat between Yuma and Ajo, and Border Patrol-related activity in pursuit of illegal immigrants on the Cabeza Prieta refuge and through the Barry M. Goldwater Range "are probably the two biggest existing threats to the herd."

The Bush-Cheney Dept. of Homeland Security has shown only callous and reckless disregard for America's southwestern landscapes, other agencies and borderlands communities. Walls do not work, except to block wildlife, and Border Patrol agents should stop driving off-road across fragile desert wilderness in humvees chasing down pedestrian migrants.

We cannot control droughts, but we can control the behavior of our federal agencies. As Obama's DHS Secretary, AZ Gov. Janet Napolitano should help borderlands wildlife and communities, by taking swift action to more responsibly and smartly focus her agencies on reducing their harmful environmental impacts as they enforce the law.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Napolitano leaving AZ; welcome Gov. Jan Brewer

Dems Obama and Napolitano hand AZ Governor's office to conservative Republican Jan Brewer.

PHOENIX -- President-elect Barack Obama has officially nominated Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) for Secretary of Homeland Security.

Napolitano has accepted (see statement below), and even though I disagree with her decision, I offer her my sincere thanks for her service as Governor, and wish her good luck trying to reform the bloated and troubled DHS.

As a State Representative-elect from Tucson, I also extend my congratulations to Arizona Sec. of State Jan Brewer (R), who will be our next Governor. I offer her, and legislative Republicans, my willingness to try to find common ground, and work cooperatively to solve problems and help Arizona's working people. I also offer a respectful warning that, if pushed, reasonable Arizonans will mobilize strong opposition against unwise extremist politics at the State Capitol.

Now lame-duck Napolitano's statement (partial): This morning I was proud to accept an offer from President-elect Barack Obama to become Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

I believe that when called upon to serve - particularly at such a critical time in the history of our country - it is our duty to step forward and say, "yes."


This was by no means, an easy decision...


Arizona is facing a challenging time, and I intend to carry forward with my most important responsibilities as the leader of this state. In the weeks ahead, I will deliver my State of the State address, and shortly thereafter, I will present to the Arizona Legislature a balanced budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2010. Upon confirmation as Secretary by the U.S. Senate, I will tender my resignation as Governor of Arizona.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fees, ORVs pushing national forest visitation down

Mt. Lemmon AZ: Forest fees keeping people away from their public lands.

TUCSON -- Less people are visiting America's national forests, says the US Forest Service.

Increasing forest fees and related hassles, like on southern Arizona's Coronado National Forest in the Santa Catalina Mountains (aka Mt. Lemmon), Sabino Canyon, Madera Canyon and other places, are part of the reason people stay home, especially families and lower income people.

Forest Service mismanagement and noisy, reckless off-roaders, which the Forest Service has unwisely encouraged in recent years, are another big problem.

'Wreck'reation: Reckless off-roaders often violate forests closed to ORVs, running off everyone else.

James Johnston, a policy analyst and Forest Service employee advocate in Oregon, spent the last year camping out in 67 national forests and talking to 400 people. He concluded that while fewer people may be using the woods, fewer trails and campgrounds are open and there are more people riding noisy off-road vehicles.

"They think that it's harder to find solitude," he said. Sadly, he's right.

Three ways the Obama-Biden administration should reform the Forest Service are:

1. Move the Forest Service from the US Dept. of Agriculture to Interior, where most of the other US conservation-related agencies are.

2. Appoint US Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ) as Secretary of Interior. He currently serves as Chairman of the US House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

3. Reform and refocus the Forest Service toward conservation and sustainability.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mining boom in AZ is busted crashing economies

Abandoned 'business district' in mining town Clifton AZ.

MORENCI AZ -- Based on a proven track record since the 1800's, mining in the American west is often accurately described as 'boom and bust'.

Right now, big mining corporations are again hurting people and towns with massive job cuts. The mining 'boom' we hear now is crashing local economies as mining goes 'bust' again, after leaving communities with a new round of land destruction and pollution.

Were a similar percentage of Freeport-McMoRan's (FCX) high paid executives and white-collar workers laid off at the corporation's deluxe HQ, as were blue-collar workers sacked at the mines? Doubt it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

AZ leaders must protect, not axe, education funds

AZ's kids need a Governor and Legislature who will work to protect education.

PHOENIX -- Incoming Arizona Senate President Bob Burns (R-Peoria) said this week it's 'obvious' we need to cut education because 'we have overspent, obviously significantly overspent.' Yet, with Arizona already unacceptably next to last in the nation in per pupil funding, there is little to nothing to cut.

With all due respect to Mr. Burns, he is wrong on this. The State of Arizona has underfunded education, much to the harm of our economy, children and future generations. Education (and health care) are the last places we should look for cuts, not the first.

How about bringing back the education equalization property assessment, as earlier agreed, and looking hard at streamlining the bloated prison budget, Mr. Burns? How about a real attempt at solving Arizona's revenue problems?

Due to already stressed budgets, Principal Teri Melendez of TUSD must try to run two schools this year.

As a State Representative who went to public schools and has a daughter now in Tucson public schools, I listen to teachers, parents and students, and I will do all I can to try to protect public education from drastic cuts as a first budget balancing option. I will work wisely with all who value education, including moderate Republicans, and our incoming House Democratic leader, David Lujan (D-Phoenix), who says, 'let's protect education as much as we possibly can.'

The likely extreme Republican attacks on public education are just one more critical reason why Arizonans need Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) to stay in office and not go to DHS in Washington. Without her helping negotiate the budget, and her veto pen if needed, the reckless self-proclaimed 'conservatives' may be out of control at the State Capitol for the next two years.

Everyone knows this will be a tough budget year, but there's nothing 'conservative' about slashing public education funding first, that approach is radical and unwise.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

NFL should improve big Thanksgiving game

Rematch Super Bowl teams, not Lions every Thanksgiving.

TUCSON -- I'm just relaxing at home with the family today. Nice cool rainy day in the Sonoran Desert. Our house smells tasty with the cooking food. I'm having a very thankful day, and I hope you are too.

I like and used to play football, so as I wait for our visitors, I'm watching the NFL's traditional Thanksgiving game shown nationally from Detroit. But it is not a good game. The Lions are down to Tennessee by 34 in the 4th quarter, and most of the fans have left the stadium, but still the viewers must suffer until the bitter end.

I'm an old Lions fan, but they are almost always bad, and should have to earn back the holiday spotlight. The NFL could ensure competitive Thanksgiving games by having the main event always feature the two teams that played in the last Super Bowl, hosted by the winning team. With this plan, today we would see Patriots v. Giants as the main game from New York. If the Lions make the Super Bowl, then they can again play in the big game the following Thanksgiving.

Cardinals v. Eagles tonight from Philadelphia should be a better game than what we are seeing from Detroit. Go Arizona! Too bad this better game is not as widely shown.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Arizona wild turkey success for Thanksgiving

Gould's Mexican turkeys on the rebound in southeastern AZ.

TUCSON -- I am thankful for many things, especially my family, health and success, and also for the recovery of Arizona's native Gould's Mexican turkey in the Sky Islands region.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Feds opt not to protect Mexican gartersnake in SW

Don't tread on me. Photo by Tom Brennan.

TUCSON -- The northern Mexican gartersnake (Thamnophis eques megalops) needs protection in Arizona and the southwest, but won't get it soon as the outgoing Bush-Cheney US Fish and Wildlife Service is choosing to not add it to the endangered species list, instead declaring it only a candidate for protection, which is usually the list where politically ignored wildlife species go to wait and die.

The northern Mexican gartersnake is part of our southwestern natural heritage, and is primarily endangered by loss of wetlands, streams, springs and other riparian areas, and also invasive bullfrogs.

The Obama-Biden Interior Department should take quick action to protect the snake and candidate species.

OTHER COVERAGE: Payson Roundup.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Many big utilities fear US energy conservation

Save, America.

TUCSON -- We keep hearing from talking heads that America must generate more power, but the truth is most Americans are wisely using less electricity. That's a positive change. Energy conservation helps people save money and protect our environment.

Despite the good news, too many big energy corporations quietly have a dim view of energy conservation, instead favoring unsustainable and wasteful growth of power consumption.

Less travel expected this holiday due to economy

Snowy Santa Catalina Mountains.

TUCSON -- Taking a trip this Thanksgiving week? My family and I are not. We've decided to stay in wonderful southern Arizona and enjoy a few days off work and school.

Travel watchers are predicting less travel by Arizonans this holiday season due to the down economy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

America and Arizona needs economic justice now

Poverty in colonias, Pima County AZ

TUCSON -- With unemployment and foreclosures worsening again in Arizona, and home values still going down, the suffering of too many Arizonans is growing as this bad economy gets worse.

So far, the bailouts and stimuli seem focused on protecting only select big corporations and white-collar workers in banking and finance, not the majority of working people who are hurting, unemployed and losing their houses. Where is the help for working families?

The time for economic justice in Arizona and America is now!

There is some hope, on the federal level, that President-elect Barack Obama gets it and will do all he can to help, but that may not have big enough effects at the state and local level, where most people need and get essential government services.

As a working family man and State Representative-elect (D-district 29), I can relate. I am already working hard to respectfully build effective relationships across the aisle at the capitol, using my leadership and community experience to build bridges and have the best chance of solving problems and helping people. We must reward hard work, not just wealth, and ensure a better economic future for workers and local business.

But if Gov. Janet Napolitano leaves the office to Sec. of State Jan Brewer, there may be little to stop the extreme 'conservative' excesses of a careless majority in the Arizona legislature. I and others have good ideas to help our economy become more prosperous, diversified and sustainable, but it remains to be seen if we'll have any real chance to have our economic solutions seriously considered. At the state level we could be in for bleak couple of years for working people in Arizona, but I will never stop searching for common ground, nor will I stop working for positive change and economic justice.

Too many Arizonans are cold, hungry and bootless, and if you have no boots, you cannot pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Learner for Obama's CEQ top environment advisor

Howard Learner would be good at CEQ, and he has my support.

CHICAGO -- Howard Learner is director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, and also a leading candidate for President-elect Barack Obama's Chairman of the influential White House Council on Environmental Quality.

I met Howard in 2007 in northern Michigan at a science and policy conference on global warming and the Great Lakes. We had a good talk then about the environment, politics, Obama and turning America around. I also talked with him this week, and find that he'd be a solid pick for CEQ, which badly needs a shakeup and return to public-interest focus. Learner has known and advised Obama on environmental issues for years.

Before founding ELPC, Learner was the General Counsel of Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, a public interest law center, specializing in complex civil litigation and policy development. Mr. Learner is an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University Law School, teaching an advanced environmental law seminar. He holds J.D., Harvard Law School, 1980; B.A., Political Science, University of Michigan, 1976.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rep. Grijalva of AZ for Interior Secretary, seriously

Grijalva for Interior?

TUCSON -- Politico is reporting that our Congressman Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ7) is emerging as a top candidate for Interior Secretary. This is good news, and I encourage President-elect Barack Obama to select him.

I've long recommended Raul as good for this important job, and I hope he gets it.

If Mr. Grijalva becomes Interior Secretary, it is very likely another progressive Democrat would take his seat in Congress, perhaps Richard Elias, Chairman of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

Contact the Obama transition team with support for Grijalva for Interior.

OTHER COVERAGE: Washington Post; Tucson Citizen; Billie Stanton; New West

Fitz cartoon on Napolitano and truly blue red state

TUCSON -- Fitz's cartoon for today.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Napolitano should say 'no, thanks' on DHS Secretary

Napolitano should finish her responsibilities as Arizona Governor.

PHOENIX -- According to the Washington Post and others, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano is President-elect Barack Obama's choice to serve as secretary of homeland security.

If true, Janet should resist the urge to jump ship at home and join the federal bureaucracy in DC now. She is more influential and powerful as a well known western Governor than she'd likely ever be at DHS.

With high respect for our Governor, I and millions of Arizonans ask her, please, to honor our votes and her responsibility to serve out the next two years of her term as Governor, then join the Obama team in 2010 if that is what they both want.

If she leaves now, she'll be handing control of our state government completely to extreme Republicans, the political situation at the State Capitol will go from tough to dismal, and she may burn political bridges here that would make it difficult for her to ever come back. She would likely always be remembered mostly for leaving Arizonans hanging during tough times. It is much more important to Arizona that she stay and serve out her second term as Governor, to provide a critical check against the far-right-leaning legislature, than it is for her to take the DHS job.

At 51, the Governor still has many political options, but these options may be limited long-term if she abandons Arizona now. If she finishes her commitment as Governor, she could run for Senate in 2010, even if old John McCain tries to run again, and she would have a good chance of winning. In the Senate, she would be much more powerful than DHS Secretary, and she could likely stay there as long as she wants. Some are saying part of why Obama wants Napolitano is to woo McCain with a big favor by getting her out of Arizona.

Janet should know that cabinet posts are usually political dead ends, and effective Secretaries are often thrown under the bus due to politics. She could serve 4-8 years or less at the controversial and troubled DHS and then be done in the political world.

The Obama team is smart enough to know that Napolitano leaving now would be very bad for us here in Arizona. Perhaps they do not care? But they should. Arizona is now the second biggest state in the west, and taking our much needed Governor, especially during these critical tough times, may harm Democratic gains in our important state, and likely make it hard for Obama to win Arizona in 2012.

If the Governor is offered and takes the DHS job, I wish her the best and offer my help. We'll be watching to see what she does to end the Real ID legal exemptions so badly abused by Bush-Cheney-Chertoff DHS, and we'll be saying, "Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!"

OTHER COVERAGE: Napolitano Transformed, Border Reporter. Many implications in AZ, CQ Politics. Why Arizona Dems don't want Napolitano at DHS, The New Republic. Homeland futility, Village Voice. Napolitano could win McCain Senate seat, Tucson Citizen column. 'Gov.' Brewer may be hostile, Tucson Citizen. Arizona's loss, AZ Daily Star.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

AZ Rep. Grijalva wins progressive caucus chair

Obama with Grijalva.

TUCSON -- I'm proud to say that my friend and Congressman, Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ7), has been elected as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Good job, Raul. You've earned it.

Obama puts US back on solving global warming

Scientists say Arizona and the American southwest will continue to get drier and hotter with climate change.

CHICAGO -- Speaking via video to a gathering of world leaders, President-elect Barack Obama said that the continued existence of George Bush as president would prevent him from making the trip to Poland next month for the next round of international global warming and climate change talks. But he'd clearly heard the call for his presence.

Here's a key passage from Obama's video statement:

"Let me also say a special word to the delegates from around the world who will gather in Poland next month: your work is vital to the planet. While I won't be president at the time of your meeting and while the United States has only one president at a time, I've asked members of Congress who are attending the conference as observers to report back to me on what they learn there. And once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations, and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change."

Why is Obama's statement such a big deal? Because for eight years the U.S. has been blocking genuine progress on an international climate deal. Now, in the middle of economic crisis and with plenty of other issues to address, President-elect Obama took the time to make a special statement committing the U.S. to positive engagement in the upcoming negotiations. His commitment will be seen as a major breakthrough by countries around the world.

It's a start.

- adapted from Bill McKibben, 350.org

Speaker-elect picks AZ House committee chairs

I will work cooperatively at the Capitol to solve problems, help people and build bridges for positive change.

PHOENIX -- House Speaker-Elect Kirk Adams (R-Mesa) has announced the following standing committee chair appointments for the 49th Legislature, which will begin its work in January 2009.

Appropriations – Representative John Kavanagh
Commerce – Representative Michele Reagan
Education – Representative Rich Crandall
Environment – Representative Ray Barnes
Banking & Insurance – Representative Nancy McLain
Government – Representative Sam Crump
Health & Human Services – Representative Nancy Barto
Public Employees, Retirement & Entitlement Reform – Representative Tom Boone
Judiciary – Representative Adam Driggs
Military Affairs & Public Safety – Representative Jerry Weiers
Natural Resources & Rural Affairs – Representative Bill Konopnicki
Rules – Representative Warde Nichols
Transportation & Infrastructure – Representative Andy Biggs
Water & Energy – Representative Lucy Mason
Ways & Means – Representative Rick Murphy

Speaker-Elect Adams also announced today that Representative Steve Yarbrough will serve as Speaker Pro Tempore.

Specific regular hearing schedules and memberships for the 49th Legislature’s standing committees will be posted publicly as they become available.

- from Speaker-elect Adams news release

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

PEER defends BLM landscape conservation system

Joshua trees and wildflowers in the Mojave Desert.

WASHINGTON -- Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) in DC and California is working at the request of concerned BLM staff to defend the National Landscape Conservation System.

Young leaders: get cash from Do Something Awards

Do Something, win money.

by Jeneiene Schaffer

TUCSON -- The Do Something Awards, formerly the Brick Awards, are designed to provide recognition and funding for young community volunteers. Do Something Award Winners receive a community grant, participation in a special award ceremony, media coverage, and continued support from Do Something.

In the 2009 program, five winners will receive a minimum of $10,000 in community grants and scholarships. (Only winners who are age 18 and under are eligible for a scholarship of $5,000 and a $5,000 community grant; winners age 19-25 receive their entire award in the form of a community grant.) Of the five winners, one will be selected as the grand prize winner, and will receive a total of $100,000 in community grants, paid directly to the nonprofit of his or her choice.

Do Something Award applications go through two stages. First, the Do Something Award Academy (comprised of former winners) reads through all of the applications and selects the finalists. Finalists are flown to New York City for interviews with representatives from the Do Something Award Selection Committee.

The five Do Something Award winners are announced shortly thereafter in Spring 2009. The grand prize winner will be announced in Summer 2009.

Please visit the Do Something Web site for complete program guidelines. For more information on how to support youth in our local communities, please contact Jeneiene Schaffer at jschafferaz(at)gmail.com