Monday, March 31, 2008

Patterson for AZ House of Reps campaign update

Elect Daniel Patterson: family man, ecologist, leader

TUCSON -- Our positive clean campaign for Arizona House in LD29 (map) is going well, and we ask for your support.

The Republican majority in the legislature continues to risk Arizona's future by failing to work to solve the state budget crisis; one more good reason to vote to change the legislature by electing me and other progressive Democrats.

A new Democratic majority will focus on balancing the budget, solving problems and helping people, instead of wasting time with frivolous bills.

Our campaign is continuing to walk neighborhoods to talk with voters and collect our $5 clean elections donations. It's fun and interesting; people in Pima County are very engaged in politics this year.

Please volunteer to help walk, make calls, display a bumper sticker and/or yard sign, or host a party -- contact DPcampaign(at)gmail(dot)com.

The Patterson campaign loves our volunteers, and we need your help and primary vote (July 31-Sept 2) to get elected and help make Arizona a better place.

Thank you for your support!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tim Bee called out to help pass ORV safety bill

Will Bee help, or continue to block?

PHOENIX -- I have a letter, on behalf of SW PEER, in today's Arizona Republic calling on Sen. Tim Bee to stop blocking and support passage of the popular compromise off-road vehicle management bill.

SoAZ's US Reps challenge USFS mining excess

Protecting public lands is patriotic

RELATED, 4/3: Commentary by Jeneiene Schaffer

TUCSON & FLAGSTAFF -- It was a day of action for the common good and against mining excess for US Reps. Giffords and Grijalva.

Giffords (D-AZ8) announced a new agreement with the US Forest Service on the Rosemont Mine proposal EIS process.

Grijalva (D-AZ7) held a congressional hearing in Flagstaff about uranium mining on the Kaibab National Forest near the Grand Canyon.

The 1872 Mining Law must be repealed or seriously reformed, and I'm proud of our US Reps.

First, the excerpts from Giffords' statement at a noon press conference in Tucson: "I am pleased to report today that the Forest Service has agreed to dramatically open up this process and give Southern Arizonans the opportunity to have their voices heard. This is a clear win for openness and transparency in government and I thank the Forest Service for its positive action in this regard.

On Thursday, March 27, 2008 I met with Corbin Newman, Regional Forester of the U.S. Forest Service, and Jeanine Derby, Forest Supervisor of the Coronado National Forest. We met at my request so I could personally express my concerns about how we can provide more opportunities for public comment on the proposed Rosemont Mine.

The proposed Rosemont Mine has been controversial – to put it mildly – from the beginning. I share the deep concerns of many in our community about the mine’s potential impacts on our water, air and quality of life. As a result, Southern Arizonans must have sufficient time and opportunity to make their voices heard. We need to make sure that we can fully identify the issues that concern us.

Opportunities for the public to comment on the mine take place during the preparation of what the Forest Service calls an Environment Impact Statement. This document is required by law and it is a key part of the agency’s evaluation of the mine proposal.

Unfortunately, the process has gotten off to a difficult start. Over the last two weeks, since the process was first announced, several events have undermined public perception of the Forest Service as an impartial facilitator.

It was troubling to me personally to learn from press reports about the police being called to one meeting and having the audience “stacked” by the mining company in another. Regardless of the details associated with these events, I believe significant steps are necessary to restore public confidence, both in the Forest Service and in the EIS process.

This is why, I am pleased we have agreed to the following six adjustments to the Forest Service’s course of action regarding the Rosemont Mine (proposal):

· The public scoping process will be extended from the original 30 days to 120 days. The closing date for the public scoping process will be extended to July 11th, 2008. This expanded window will ensure that the public has ample opportunity to learn about the EIS process and provide their comments to the Forest Service. It also demonstrates that the Forest Service is serious about collecting public comments.

· Three additional open-house meetings will be scheduled. To ensure ample opportunity for the public to educate itself about the EIS process and provide comments, three (3) additional open-house meetings will be scheduled. One meeting has already been scheduled for April 5 in Vail and another is in the planning stages for Sahuarita. A third will be scheduled in the Sonoita area in the coming weeks.

· All future open-house meetings will begin with an explanation of the process. The remaining open-house meetings will begin with an oral and written explanation of the process. This introduction will provide an overview of the EIS process; the purpose of the open-house meeting format; the type of comments being solicited; the role of the Forest Service; and the identification of officials from the Forest Service, Augusta Resources, and other relevant organizations in attendance at the meeting. The introduction will also explain that the open-house is not intended as a public hearing, and that public hearings will be held on dates and at locations which will be announced at each open house.

· Three public hearings will be scheduled. In addition to the open-house meetings mentioned above, the Forest Service will also schedule three (3) public hearings during the 120 day comment period to allow Southern Arizonans to express their views in an open public forum. These three hearings will be held in Central Tucson, the Green Valley/Sahuarita area, and the Sonoita/Patagonia area.

· The selection process for the EIS contractor will be reviewed. Concerns have been raised about the process employed by the Forest Service to select SWCA as the primary contractor to perform the EIS, and that firm’s ability to evaluate the Rosemont proposal objectively. To address these concerns, the Forest Service has agreed to conduct a review of the selection process with the participation of a senior member of my staff and a representative of the public.

· A community work group will be established to participate in the EIS process. A work group will be convened to provide community and technical input throughout the process. This group will include representatives of appropriate public agencies, members of affected communities, and my staff. The group will be charged with assuring that all specific public concerns relevant to the project are raised and addressed in the EIS.

In closing, let me emphasize that the full involvement of the public is essential in order for any public agency to fulfill its mission.

I also want to acknowledge the significant support from Congressman Raul Grijalva’s office. We agree that Southern Arizonans deserve every opportunity to have input on this important issue."

*

In Flagstaff today: A hearing on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon had overwhelming support against the mining proposal near one of our Nation’s most well-known icons.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands of the House Natural Resources Committee presided over the hearing.

There were over 200 people in attendance.

Hearing witnesses provided testimony on the Forest Service’s proposal to allow uranium mining. Witnesses included local elected officials, Tribal chairpersons, Grand Canyon area business and environmental representatives and uranium experts.

Recently, information surfaced regarding exploratory drilling for uranium within a few miles of the Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim, a popular tourist attraction and protected area. The drilling is taking place on the Kaibab National Forest under what are known as categorical exclusions from the National Environmental Policy Act with very little environmental review and without public comment or involvement.

Grijalva’s legislation, the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act of 2008 (H.R. 5583), will withdraw approximately one million acres near the Grand Canyon from mineral exploration under the 1872 Mining Act.

“Today’s hearing showed the concerns that many of us have about mining, especially near an icon like the Grand Canyon,” Grijalva said. “The support against uranium drilling points to the lack of oversight of the 1872 mining law. This law was passed by Congress at a time when the country was expanding and the government wanted to lure settlers West under the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. The law still allows this activity on our public lands and as a result, the clean up of old uranium mine sites in this region has not been adequately dealt with. It is Congress’s responsibility to reform this law that is seriously past its prime.”

The bill would withdraw from mining 628,886 acres in the Kanab Creek area and 112,655 in House Rock Valley managed by Bureau of Land Management, as well as 327,367 acres in the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest south of the Canyon.

The hearing was a joint effort of Grijalva’s subcommittee and the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. Grijalva was joined by several members of Congress, including Reps. Ed Pastor (D-AZ) and Grace Napolitano (D-CA).

NM org seeks protection for 681 western species

Black-tailed Prairie Dogs

SANTA FE -- On March 19, my friends at WildEarth Guardians, one of the few 'no sell out' groups left in the southwest, filed a needed lawsuit in Washington DC against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) seeking protection of 681 plant and animal species under the Endangered Species Act. The suit challenges the Service's failure to issue findings on two petitions filed by WildEarth Guardians last summer which requested protection of 681 critically imperiled species across twelve western states.

The Washington Post reported WildEarth Guardians' lawsuit and the broader problem of the Bush administration's low rate of listing endangered species. The Post story describes how the Bush administration has dismissed scientific advice and reversed long-standing policies in order to avoid protecting imperiled species.

"Tragically, 80% of the endangered species in the U.S. are not protected under the Endangered Species Act," stated Dr. Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. "Under the Bush administration, one of the biggest threats facing species on the brink of extinction in the U.S. is the very agency that is supposed to be protecting them -- the Fish and Wildlife Service," continued Rosmarino.

WildEarth Guardians' petitions cite the current human-caused extinction crisis, with 6,000-9,000 species estimated at risk of extinction in the U.S., as a rationale for federal protection of all critically imperiled and imperiled species across the twelve western states in the Service's Southwestern and Mountain-Prairie Regions. Nationwide, only 1,351 U.S. species are federally protected (listed under the Endangered Species Act).

Many of the species for which WildEarth Guardians filed suit face added risks from the climate crisis. Climate change scenarios in the western U.S. include extended droughts, erratic precipitation and thus altered stream flows, reduced snow pack, warmer temperatures, and other effects including species range shifts. Rare species -- such as the 681 species WildEarth Guardians filed suit over last week -- may be at particular risk.

The Endangered Species Act is one of the most powerful conservation protection statutes in the world. The Service acknowledges that over 99% of the species protected under this law have been spared extinction. Native wildlife and plants possess a range of values for humans, including economic, aesthetic, and ecological, alongside their own inherent value. At least 85% of the American public supports the Endangered Species Act, many of whom do so out of a moral duty to preserve nature for future generations.

"The Endangered Species Act can help address the extinction crisis in the U.S., but plants and animals do not enjoy any of its protections until they are listed under the Act," stated attorney Jay Tutchton, General Counsel for WildEarth Guardians and University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic Director. "We are pressing for protection of some of the most critically imperiled plants and animals so that they do not disappear forever," continued Tutchton.

No U.S. wildlife or plant species have been listed in the nearly two years in which Dirk Kempthorne has been Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. The Post reports that 231 species were listed under George H.W. Bush in his one term, 521 species were listed under Bill Clinton in his two terms, but only 59 have been listed under George W. Bush.

"Under Bush, the door to our nation's Ark -- the Endangered Species Act -- has been locked, despite a long line of refugees desperately waiting to board. It's time to kick the door back open and give species in need the protection they deserve," stated Dr. Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians.

The 681 species petitioned by WildEarth Guardians were selected from a source that the Service regards as "authoritative" -- NatureServe. The petitioned species are either critically imperiled (ranked G1) or verging between critically imperiled and imperiled (ranked G1G2). There are over 800 species ranked G1 or G1G2 across the Service's Southwest and Mountain-Prairie Regions. More than 80% of these are not listed or candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

In the past, WildEarth Guardians has submitted lengthy petitions to obtain federal listing for single species. But the Bush administration's refusal to list species sparked a new strategy: to petition for species recognized as imperiled by a source the Service regards as authoritative. WildEarth Guardians continues to file single-species petitions and filed suit on March 13 in Washington DC over the Service's failure to grant WildEarth Guardians' petition to list the black-tailed prairie dog.

According to Rosmarino, "We need to elevate the pace on obtaining federal protection for our nation's wildlife and plants. Too many species are slipping through the cracks as the extinction crisis escalates. It is time for something completely different."

The 681 species for which WildEarth Guardians is seeking protection represent the diverse tapestry of life within twelve western states and include vanishing fishes, beetles, butterflies, moths, caddisflies, mayflies, grasshoppers, snails, scorpions, spiders, salamanders, prickly pears, oaks, grasses, mosses, cacti, daisies, buckwheats, and yuccas.

Photo gallery of species.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lax enforcement causing more bike & ped deaths

Please don't kill us

TUCSON -- Every year more cyclists and pedestrians are run down and killed on Tucson's streets, and lax enforcement has long been a big part of the problem.

Despite calls for reform, in most cases Tucson police do not even ticket drivers, even when they kill someone. Reckless motorists know this and are not as careful as they should be. Police themselves often drive dangerously around pedestrians and cyclists.

Until cops stop apologizing for reckless drivers, and get serious about protecting cyclists and pedestrians, Tucson has not earned the bike-friendly platinum rating, and maybe should be dropped from gold.

Arizona needs stronger laws to protect and give the right of way to cyclists and pedestrians in most situations, and I will press for these improvements when elected to the State House.

People walking or riding for personal and environmental health reduce traffic and help us all, so give them a brake.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Giffords' congressional solar hearing looks at future

Rep. Giffords takes a spin in a solar car

RELATED NEWS, 3/27: CA plans big smart rooftop solar project.

TUCSON -- As a solar energy producer, I welcome any positive attention to clean energy. At a valuable hearing recently, US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) called solar energy a practical solution to some of the most significant challenges America will confront in the 21st century.

“The time for solar is now,” Giffords told an audience of 130 attending a bipartisan congressional field hearing on solar energy last week. “Technologies are improving, costs are falling and the reasons to adopt it are increasingly compelling.”

Giffords, who presided over the hearing in her capacity as vice-chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, compared the solar energy industry of today to the early years of space program because of the many positive ways it can shape our future.

“In the coming months and years, we will face critical decisions on how to address climate change, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and boost our economic competitiveness,” the Tucson lawmaker said. “The beauty of solar power is that it offers an elegant solution to all three of these pressing concerns.”

The goal of the two-hour hearing was to explore the potential of making solar energy a significant source of electric generating capacity in the United States. Giffords and five other members of Congress heard testimony from six expert witnesses who spoke about solar technologies, energy transmission and regulatory issues, and the role of government and the private sector in the development of utility-scale solar power.

Providing testimony were Kate Maracas of Abengoa Solar; Mark Mehos of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Barbara Lockwood of APS; Tom Hansen of Tucson Electric Power; Valerie Rauluk of Venture Catalyst Inc.; and Joe Kastner of MMA Renewable Ventures.

Giffords, a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, was joined on the panel by U.S. Reps. Harry Mitchell of Arizona, Dan Lipinski of Illinois, Jim Matheson of Utah, and Ralph Hall of Texas. U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee, chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, participated by telephone.

I favor focus on utilities supporting customers using PV technology on rooftops in cities, where power is used, as the smartest step toward increasing solar power production now.

One concern with big utility-scale solar power plants is they need a lot of land, so proper siting to avoid harm to valuable open space and wildlife habitat is critical. Big utility-scale solar plants will also increase utilities' desire to build more big power lines across the landscape, and increase reliance on the inefficient and vulnerable power grid. Some big utility models also would use a lot of water, unlike PV panels.

Ultimately, to maximize efficient wise use of solar energy, we'll need a combination of millions of rooftop PV systems, and well sited utility-scale plants near cities. Old cotton or alfalfa growing lands are generally smart sites for solar plants, for example.

Without a doubt, utilities are important to going solar, but they need to cooperate more and let go of their desire to fully control all power production and sales.

Motorheads wreck NM public land with illegal track


BLM's Bill Papich stands in a dug-out rut where off-roaders recently illegally used heavy machinery on public land to create off-road vehicle jumps. (Lindsay Pierce/The Daily Times)

RELATED, 4/2: Much stronger response to ORV abuse in WA.

UPDATE, 3/30: More media coverage.

UPDATE, 3/27: BLM has caught someone for this, but Joel Farrell, BLM's Asst. Field Office Manager in Farmington, says BLM will not cite, fine or prosecute in this case; BLM is just asking the violator to go out and remove the jumps.

My statement for SW PEER: "BLM must strongly prosecute to send a message that will deter other outlaw off-roaders from blatantly wrecking America's public lands. Everyone has a right to use public lands, but no one has a right to abuse them, and these criminals must not be let off the hook with just a warning."

FARMINGTON NM -- Reckless off-roaders illegally used heavy equipment to dig up fragile public lands on the Colorado Plateau to make off-road vehicle jumps.

BLM seems concerned, but somewhat apologetic and unwilling to really crack down on the outlaw off-roaders.

As reported: BLM's Papich: "We try to cut everybody as much slack as we can... I don't think they understood what they did at all."

"Although signs in the area near the damaged land state destruction of the property could result in $10,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison, the BLM just wants the land restored as much as possible."

"The only way to come to terms with this is to find the people who did it, and give them a bunch of wheelbarrows and shovels to put it back," Papich said.

This is not the strong BLM response needed to deter future damaging illegal off-road activities in the area.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility contacted the BLM New Mexico State Office in Santa Fe this morning to request a reward offer, full criminal investigation and prosecution of whoever did this.

Furthermore, PEER has called on BLM to close the Glade Run Recreation Area to off-roading until the agency shows it can appropriately manage and enforce rules there.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

HCR2037 fails, would harm wildlife management

PHOENIX -- The overstepping HCR2037 was defeated yesterday in the State House.

HCR2037 constitutional rights; game and fish (JP Weiers, Adams, Barnes, et al), a measure that would have referred to the ballot a constitutional amendment that would have a significant and negative impact on wildlife and wildlife management in Arizona, was defeated in the House Committee of the Whole yesterday 27-28-5.

Thank you to legislators who voted no on this. They include Representatives Ableser, Bradley, Brown, Cajero Bedford, Chad Campbell, Cloves Campbell, Chabin, DeSimone, Farley, Gallardo, Garcia, Hershberger, Lopes, Lopez, Lujan, McGuire, Meza, Miranda, Pancrazi, Prezelski, Reagan, Rios, Schapira, Sinema, Thrasher, Tom, Ulmer, and Young Wright.

The Arizona Game & Fish Dept. is also against HCR2037.

It is likely to come back as a strike everything amendment, so stay tuned on that.

My talk today at the DoD environmental conference went well. Thanks to Junior Kearns of the White Sands base NM for the invite to PEER.

- adapted from Sierra Club

Monday, March 24, 2008

Patterson addresses US military and Pima Dems

USAF's Barry M. Goldwater Range in SW Arizona

TUCSON & PHOENIX -- I spoke tonight to the LD27 Dems, our neighbors to the west, about my campaign for State House in LD29. Thanks to chairman Jim H. for the invite, and everyone for listening and asking good questions, and hopefully volunteering for our clean campaign.

As a Tucson Planning Commissioner, I also appreciated City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich being there to talk about long-overdue critical city-county water planning.

Tomorrow, I will be a speaker for PEER at the National Military Fish and Wildlife Association annual meeting in Phoenix. The topic is environmental laws and DoD natural resources management, an issue important to Arizona I've worked on for years.

On some military installations, primarily Air Force and Navy air ranges and some Marine bases, DoD does a pretty good job at protecting wildlife habitat. The unique aspects of closure to public entry and the readiness mission create special dynamics, challenges and opportunities for DoD environmental conservation.

Congress questions Grand Canyon uranium mining

Renewed uranium mining threatens the Grand Canyon region

TUCSON -- The US House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands will hold a hearing, “Community Impacts of Uranium Mining Near the Grand Canyon,” Friday, 10am at the Flagstaff AZ City Hall, 211 West Aspen Ave.

“I’m very concerned about the proposal to allow uranium mining near our most famous National Park, the Grand Canyon,” said Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ).

Hearing witnesses will provide testimony on the Forest Service’s proposal to allow uranium mining. Witnesses will include local elected officials, Tribal chairpersons, Grand Canyon area business and environmental representatives and uranium experts.

I wonder if indicted Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) will show up? Probably not. But it's still his district, for now, and he could go out trying to help protect the Grand Canyon, if he wants to.

Cheney: 'So?' on 4000 dead, 2/3 of US against war

Cheney: 'So what?'

WASHINGTON -- As Bush's failed Iraq war enters its 5th year, the 4000th US soldier was killed on Easter (with perhaps a million or more Iraqi civilians dead) and at least two-thirds of Americans against the war.

What does callous Dick 'go f*ck yourself or I'll shoot you in the face' Cheney say about Americans' concerns? 'So?'

To many Americans, it appears Congress' weak response on Iraq is the same as the VP's response to the failed unpopular war: 'so?'.

For more of the same costly careless warmongering for the next 100 years, vote McCain.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Michigan State Spartans move on to sweet 16

Drew Neitzel and the Spartans looking strong

DENVER -- After having a great time at Richard Elias' campaign kick off party this eve, I had to watch some basketball, and I'm proud to say my alma mater, the Michigan State Spartans, are moving on in the NCAAs.

State convincingly beat Pittsburgh tonight, and advance to next play in Houston, probably against Memphis.

Coach Tom Izzo has them on a roll, and I wouldn't be surprised if they make the Final Four again this year.

Go Green!

Bummer on the UA loss, but the Wildcats did OK this year, especially considering all the Lute Olson controversy.

Tim Bee helps kill AZ off-road law enforcement bill

Long-lasting damage from reckless off-roading in western AZ

UPDATE, 3/27: ORV bill revived.

Related: Off-road excess problems in Utah.

PHOENIX -- House Bill 2573, (also known as the off-highway vehicle, user fee bill) was defeated Wednesday by a vote of 3-3 with one absent in the Arizona Senate Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee chaired by Senator Jake Flake (R-Snowflake).

No good deed goes unpunished by Republicans in the Arizona legislature. After all of the work to come together on a bill that many diverse groups think will help limit the negative impacts of off-road vehicles and provide better law enforcement, three Senators kill it. It had already been double assigned to unfriendly committees by Senate President Tim Bee (R-Tucson).

House Bill 2573 would have provided resources to better manage Arizona’s growing off-road vehicle (ORV) use while protecting wildlife habitat. According to AZ Game & Fish, ORVs have seen a 347 percent increase in usage in Arizona in the last few years, but law enforcement and trail management have lagged far behind. Through this legislation, dollars would have been provided by a nominal user fee to create new law enforcement positions, new land and habitat mitigation for damaged use areas, and better trail management.

Apparently Tim Bee does not see the problem with off-road vehicles. Please take a moment and call his office and ask him to support efforts to protect sensitive public and private lands from off-road vehicles, to ensure better safety provisions – especially for children, and to provide for better law enforcement. You can reach the Senate President at tbee@azleg.gov or (602) 926-5683.

-- adapted from Sierra Club and AGFD

Friday, March 21, 2008

Board kills 'bypass' highway on San Pedro River

Historic post office at Cascabel AZ along the San Pedro River

KOLD CBS 13 coverage by Bud Foster. AZ Daily Star article.

Star, 3/22: "We have billions of dollars going into road projects and pennies going into other forms of transportation," said Daniel Patterson, a city planning commissioner and Southwest director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

He said building a bypass would be expensive and would encourage growth in sensitive areas.

"Let's kill this bypass boondoggle now. Let's do better. Let's invest in rail," Patterson said.

TUCSON -- The Arizona State Transportation Board faced a feisty crowd downtown today opposed to a metro Tucson 'bypass highway'.


Nearly everyone who spoke, including me, opposed the bypass idea due to high economic, environmental and social costs, and instead favored more rail for cargo and people, infill development within the urban core, and sustainable transportation that won't need huge new roads.

The Arizona Game & Fish Dept. courageously sent a rep to tell the board they opposed it as well, due to threats to wildlife and habitat.

Board Chairman, long-time sprawl development guy Si Schorr of Pima County, placed the item #19 on the agenda, forcing everyone to wait for hours to speak. He also limited public comment to 45 minutes, cutting off many from being able to address the board. After cutting off public comment, he went on a long spew about how we just had to have these giant new roads.

AZ Dept. of Transportation head, Victor Mendez, left the meeting during the middle of public comment, apparently not caring enough about citizens' views to stay and listen.

Earlier in the meeting Mendez introduced the new head of ADoT planning, who previously worked on transportation planning in Houston. We don't yet know the new head planner's views, but Houston has one of the worst 'one person, one car' big highway-centric systems in the nation, and relatedly some of the worst pollution, poverty and urban sprawl. Hardly an encouraging model for planning future transportation in Arizona. We don't need or want Houston or LA in Tucson and southern Arizona, we can and must do better and be smarter on transportation.

In the end, the board unwisely decided to keep wasting money 'studying' the unpopular bypass highway idea, but did take a step in the right direction by eliminating the San Pedro River route from further consideration, at least for now. The board's approved motion also emphasized focus on improvements within existing corridors, including the I-10 right of way. On the bad side, they did not eliminate the equally absurd Aravaipa route proposal from further consideration.

Make no mistake about it, the bypass highway boondoggle isn't just about moving trucks or traffic, it's primarily about fueling real estate speculation, urban sprawl and State Land sales along the route.

The Tucson bypass is a bad idea that should be stopped now before more taxpayer money is wasted 'studying' it.

Gov. Bill Richardson backs Obama for President

SANTA FE -- Joining me, Gov. Napolitano and millions of Americans, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has endorsed Obama for President.

Here is Richardson's message sent early today:

During the last year, I have shared with you my vision and hopes for this nation as we look to repair the damage of the last seven years. And you have shared your support, your ideas and your encouragement to my campaign. We have been through a lot together and that is why I wanted to tell you that, after careful and thoughtful deliberation, I have made a decision to endorse Barack Obama for President.

We are blessed to have two great American leaders and great Democrats running for President. My affection and admiration for Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton will never waver. It is time, however, for Democrats to stop fighting amongst ourselves and to prepare for the tough fight we will face against John McCain in the fall. The 1990's were a decade of peace and prosperity because of the competent and enlightened leadership of the Clinton administration, but it is now time for a new generation of leadership to lead America forward. Barack Obama will be a historic and a great President, who can bring us the change we so desperately need by bringing us together as a nation here at home and with our allies abroad.

Earlier this week, Senator Barack Obama gave an historic speech. that addressed the issue of race with the eloquence, sincerity, and optimism we have come to expect of him. He inspired us by reminding us of the awesome potential residing in our own responsibility. He asked us to rise above our racially divided past, and to seize the opportunity to carry forward the work of many patriots of all races, who struggled and died to bring us together.

As a Hispanic, I was particularly touched by his words. I have been troubled by the demonization of immigrants--specifically Hispanics-- by too many in this country. Hate crimes against Hispanics are rising as a direct result and now, in tough economic times, people look for scapegoats and I fear that people will continue to exploit our racial differences--and place blame on others not like them . We all know the real culprit -- the disastrous economic policies of the Bush Administration!

Senator Obama has started a discussion in this country long overdue and rejects the politics of pitting race against race. He understands clearly that only by bringing people together, only by bridging our differences can we all succeed together as Americans.

His words are those of a courageous, thoughtful and inspiring leader, who understands that a house divided against itself cannot stand. And, after nearly eight years of George W. Bush, we desperately need such a leader.

To reverse the disastrous policies of the last seven years, rebuild our economy, address the housing and mortgage crisis, bring our troops home from Iraq and restore America's international standing, we need a President who can bring us together as a nation so we can confront our urgent challenges at home and abroad.

During the past year, I got to know Senator Obama as we campaigned against each other for the Presidency, and I felt a kinship with him because we both grew up between words, in a sense, living both abroad and here in America. In part because of these experiences, Barack and I share a deep sense of our nation's special responsibilities in the world.

So, once again, thank you for all you have done for me and my campaign. I wanted to make sure you understood my reasons for my endorsement of Senator Obama. I know that you, no matter what your choice, will do so with the best interests of this nation, in your heart.

Sincerely, Bill Richardson

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Eckerstrom, Fernandez win CD7 Obama DNC reps

TUCSON -- Arizona Democrats caucused to select delegates to the convention this weekend.

In my area, CD7, former Pima Dems chairman Paul Eckerstrom, and young Yuma/ASU political organizer Lisa Fernandez won spots as delegates for Obama.

These are both good choices. If it comes down to a contest at the convention in Denver, Eckerstrom and Fernandez should be effective for Obama in many ways with many people.

I'll be working for change in the real world on AZ's streets, mountains and deserts for a bit, so there may be less writing here for the next week or so.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bush admin proceeds on widely opposed mine

Santa Rita Mountains threatened by open-pit mining

TUCSON -- Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jeanine Derby this week submitted a Notice of Intent for publication in the Federal Register to initiate preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Augusta Corp. open pit mine in the Santa Rita Mountains.

This mine proposal is widely disliked across southern Arizona, with strong bi-partisan opposition from elected officials and a diverse majority of the public.

The EIS will disclose the potential environmental and social effects anticipated as a result of the proposed Rosemont Mine Plan of Operation (MPO), including construction and operation of an open-pit mine and related facilities, and will determine if the Forest Plan must be amended to allow such mining activities.

In addition, the EIS may evaluate other connected actions related to the MPO, such as construction of roads and utilities.

As proposed, the Augusta mine would be located 30 miles southeast of Tucson, in Pima County, on approximately 995 acres of private land, 3,670 acres of National Forest land, 15 acres of land administered by the Bureau of Land Management, and 75 acres of State Trust land.

More info at Save the Scenic Santa Ritas.

Attend the Forest Service Scoping Meetings:

Tues, 18 March, Pima Community College Desert Vista Campus, 5901 S. Calle Santa Cruz, Tucson, 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Wed, 19 March, Canoa Hills Recreation Center, 3660 S. Camino del Sol, Green Valley, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Thurs, 20 March, Patagonia Union High School, Patagonia, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00p.m.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

6M acres in 3 deserts may lose NLCS protections

Fragile and rare places like Big Morongo Canyon could be dropped from BLM's National Landscape Conservation System

WASHINGTON -- An important article by Janet Wilson is out this morning in the LA Times about the BLM's National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS), and a political 'technicality' that would boot over 6 million acres of Sonoran, Mojave and Great Basin desert areas in the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) out of the conservation system.

Congress takes first hard look at ORV harm to lands

Reckless motorheads are the biggest threat to American landscapes

UPDATE, 3/14: Some media coverage of the hearing. The hearing went well and appreciate Chairman Grijalva for taking on this big issue.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Congress will hold
its first hearing on the growing toll exacted from public lands, visitors and budgets by irresponsible off road vehicle (ORV) traffic today at 2pm ET; watch it live on the web.

The hearing takes place almost one year after a "near riot" at Little Sahara Recreation Area in Utah where inebriated gangs of ORV riders terrorized thousands of campers, resulting in 300 arrests and 37 injuries, according to agency reports obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, chaired by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), will hold a groundbreaking oversight hearing entitled "The Impacts of Unmanaged Off-Road Vehicles on Federal Land" on March 13. Providing testimony will be upset property owners, angry Indian tribal representatives, frustrated federal officials and concerned law enforcers, including Jack Gregory, who retired as the Forest Service law enforcement agent in charge of the southern region.

Gregory will be testifying for Rangers for Responsible Recreation, a network of former state, federal and local law enforcement rangers and land managers organized by PEER. In his testimony, Gregory will provide the subcommittee with a blunt assessment of the gravity of the current state of affairs:"Irresponsible off-roading has become such a menace that it is now the single greatest threat to American landscapes."

Besides rapidly escalating damage to forest streams, wetlands, ravines and meadows, Gregory details ORV-generated law enforcement problems that are spinning out of control, including

- Forest fires sparked by red-hot engines touching off dry grasses;

- Drug smuggling and trafficking in undocumented immigrants;

- and Mounting injuries, particularly to young, untrained riders.

In the face of rising ORV lawlessness, the Forest Service is dramatically cutting back on its ranger force. Gregory predicts that the current Forest Service attempt to designate ORV routes will fail due to, among other failures, inability to keep thrill-seeking off-roaders on designated trails.

"While we are glad Congress is finally beginning to look at the havoc wreaked by irresponsible ORV use on our public lands, the hard work is just beginning," stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, who organized Rangers for Responsible Recreation. "We need much tougher penalties for ORV abuse, such as vehicle forfeiture, provided there are enough boots on the ground to enforce basic protections."

Taxpayer costs from ORVs will be another hearing topic. Statistics gathered and surveys conducted by PEER show that ORVs are now overwhelmingly the top law enforcement drain on public lands. To document long-term costs, Rep. Grijalva has requested an investigation by the Government Accountability Office into the amount of damage being inflicted on our public lands by ORV traffic.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Off-road vehicle bill passes AZ House of Reps.


UPDATE, 3/12: Arizona Republic editorial

PHOENIX -- A bi-partisan compromise bill I've been working on and supporting (HB 2573, also known as the off-highway vehicle, user fee bill) passed the Arizona House of Representatives today, by a vote of 43 to 13.

House Bill 2573 would be a step forward to provide resources to better manage off-road vehicle (ORV) use in Arizona while protecting wildlife habitat.

ORVs have seen an increase in usage in Arizona in the last few years, but law enforcement has lagged far behind. Through this legislation, dollars would be provided by a nominal user fee to create new law enforcement positions, new land and habitat mitigation for damaged use areas, and better planned trails.

The bill now heads to the Arizona Senate for consideration.

- adapted from AZGFD


Patterson goes to DC to work for the common good

WASHINGTON -- I'll be working from my DC office this week as part of my job as southwest director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

I am focused on a conservation-related congressional oversight hearing I'm assisting on in Chairman Raul Grijalva's (D-AZ7) National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee.

Please check back later for news and views from America's capital with a western perspective.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Wolverines in Sierra; AZ's Bald Eagles protected

Wolverine

TUCSON -- Some good western wildlife news this week.

Wolverines, one of my favorite animals and pound-for-pound one of the toughest on the planet, are photographed in the Sierra Nevada Range of California, one of my favorite places.

The Forest Service and Park Service, which manage most of the lands the tough predator depends on in the Sierra, should act to ensure rare and endangered Wolverines and their habitat are fully protected.

Arizona's desert nesting Bald Eagles have re-gained Endangered Species Act protection, which is needed to help them survive and fully recover.

Bald Eagle in Arizona

These rare animals, and the people who work so hard to protect them, lift my heart

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Party with progressive Democrat for AZ Legislature

Help send a progressive young leader to the Capitol to work for the common good

UPDATE, 10pm: Thanks to everyone in the diverse crowd who made this party successful.

TUCSON -- Daniel Patterson for AZ House of Reps. (D-LD29) CAMPAIGN KICK OFF PARTY 4-7pm TODAY!

Please stop by for drinks, food, Cabeza Cerveza homebrew, progressive politics, friends and fun!

Bring family and friends, and help spread the word.

When: Thursday, March 6th, 2008, 4-7p
Where: The Courtyard, Historic Y, 300 E. University Blvd.

Daniel Patterson is an ecologist, family man and leader running a clean campaign for the Arizona Legislature.

He is running to win and serve at the Capitol to solve problems, help people and build bridges for change.

Daniel asks for and needs your support to win the July 31-Sept 2 primary election. LD29 voters please sign the petition and donate $5. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Obama best, must beat Clinton's hype and attacks

Time for some smart Obama 'Chicago tough'

TUCSON -- So the battle for the Democratic nomination for President goes on. Clinton's negative '3am phone' attacks, a page from the Karl Rove campaign book, seem to work against scared, less smart voters.

I also have to wonder how many Texas Republicans came out to vote for Clinton, as encouraged by talk radio hosts and others, because they know she'd be easier for McCain to beat in November.

Obama remains ahead and in charge in this race, but he must fight harder against Clinton's negative attacks, which she will increase, and perhaps start talking more about her problems during her '35 years' of politics. I don't buy her claims that she has more real experience essential to being President.

Given Clinton's unapologetic support for the failed, deadly and budget busting Bush/Cheney Iraq war, I don't think she'd be a wise commander in chief that could re-build America's burned out reputation world-wide.

Bottom line for me: Clinton is not electable as President because of her divisive very-high negatives with tens of millions of voters. These negatives may not be fair, but they are real. Clinton cannot win the White House. Obama can win, and I'm confident Dems will figure this out and Obama will eventually win the nomination.

Obama must stay positive in tone, while making the case he's qualified and more electable, and tactfully pointing out Clinton's tainted.

If Dems don't get this right, and Hillary gets the nomination, say hello to President McCain and at least four more years of Bush/Cheney type GOP destruction wrapped in the flag with our name on it.

One way out for the Dems, Clinton could become Obama's VP pick.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Save Ochoa school from TUSD managers' axe

TUSD board President Alex Rodriguez

TUCSON -- People are fighting an idea by TUSD managers to close Ochoa Elementary and other schools, and I'm on their side.

Ochoa is an important and appreciated school for kids in my south downtown neighborhood, and it should be kept open. I cannot support increasing class size and closing neighborhood schools.

TUSD must cut waste elsewhere, including more from administration, not close schools. The State Legislature must step up and better support Arizona's public schools, so these closures may be avoided.

Let the TUSD board know you want schools kept open: governingboard@tusd1.org

Monday, March 03, 2008

GV event sees bi-partisan crowd for mining reform

Writer Chuck Bowden

by Jeneiene Schaffer

GREEN VALLEY AZ -- Over 200 concerned citizens, policy makers, and coalition groups filled the Green Valley Methodist Church this past Saturday. It was a typical gorgeous southern Arizona spring morning and spirits were high. Folks gathered to hear speakers at a free public forum sponsored by the Santa Rita Mountains Conservation Coalition.

After a rousing presentation in which she implored the audience, “either we hang together or hang separately,” Save the Scenic Santa Ritas board president Gayle Hartman gave the floor to well-known and beloved local author Chuck Bowden. Appreciated and lauded for his works on conservation and border issues, Bowden was there to introduce another advocate for mining reform. “Thank god people don’t have a chance for vote for me, but here’s a guy in politics doing the right thing”, he began. “I’m a registered Democratic, and Ray Carroll is a Republican, but we both belong to the party of the Santa Rita Mountains,” he declared to a rousing applause.

During my eleven years in Tucson, I have been watching and admiring Carroll’s public advocacy for the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, so it was no surprise to see him speaking out against mining in the desert. Rarely do you see a Republican elected official in Arizona so passionate about the environment and calling out the enemies it faces. “Multi-national corporations”, he stated, “are greedy at the expense of the Santa Rita Mountains.” It is important to hold Augusta’s (Canadian mining company) feet to the fire to tell the truth. Mining is not compatible with our desert.”

Like Bowden, I too am a registered Democrat who is grateful there are elected officials like Carroll who are intelligent and passionate enough to think outside the box of cookie cutter party politics.

US Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords, and Pima County Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard Elias, all Dems, also deserve thanks.

And like many folks there this Saturday, Bowden, Carroll and others invoked the memory of Rich Genser. The event was held in his honor, and when we walked back out into the sunlight we knew his spirit was with us. Rich inspired many activists for the sonoran desert, myself included.

Learn more
about the mining threats facing the Santa Rita Mountains and what you can do to help.

Participants of the event included: Defenders of Madera Canyon – Kettenbach Property, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas – Rosemont Mines, Save the West Desert Preserve, Tucson Audubon Society, Sky Island Alliance, Committee for Responsible Growth, Friends of the Tumacacori Highlands, Cactus Huggers, Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists, and the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project.

- contact the writer: jschafferaz(at)gmail(dot)com

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Border story broke here hits front page of LA Times

To please the off-road lobby, BLM allows huge mobs of off-roaders on the border in the Algodones Dunes, attracting dangerous smugglers who easily mix with crowds

TUCSON -- I'm proud to say a critical story about border security first covered by this blog on Jan 23 is the top story on the front page of today's Los Angeles Times.

Does it make any sense to you that off-roaders are allowed unlimited access on the border in the dunes, but other conservation areas such as Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge are closed to public use for safety concerns?

It's clear that the dunes remain open to off-roaders, while other border lands are closed, due to the Bush/Cheney administration's politics of doing everything it can to serve the reckless, dangerous and polluting off-road lobby.

BLM and off-road lobbyists such as the American Sand Association risk the safety and security of law enforcement and the public by opposing keeping off-roaders north of I-8.

from today's front page LA Times article...

"It's a honey hole" for smugglers, said Border Patrol Agent Quinn Palmer, an agency spokesman, who said keeping track of the cross-border traffic is "logistically impossible." "We have thousands of people out here on a busy weekend with no clearly defined border," he said.

Richard Pierce, executive vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents agents, said the enforcement strategy makes no sense. "To say we're trying to secure the border and then leave that area populated . . . is a joke. For the safety of the Border Patrol agents involved, those campers need to be moved north of the interstate," Pierce said.

Even some off-road enthusiasts question the current policy. Many have had brushes with border bandits and smugglers, or have seen pursuits through the dunes.

Lee Dove, an attorney who visits about twice a month, once saw a smuggler flash a weapon and said he sympathized with the Border Patrol's mission.

"If they were really serious about shutting down the traffic, they'd have to do something," Dove said. "I don't see how you can really enforce the border unless they have a no-drive zone from the border inland."

Luis Sanchez, a plumber from Tucson who rides the dunes with his wife and daughters, thinks closing the dunes to improve national security is a reasonable trade-off.

"There's plenty of other places to ride . . . with miles and miles of dunes," Sanchez said.

Read the story.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Smugglers hide in plain sight, mix with off-roaders

Imperial Sand Dunes
US Border Patrol in the south Algodones Dunes LAT photo

YUMA AZ -- In the wake of the killing of Border Patrol agent Luis Aguilar in mid-January, read a very important top front page article from the Sunday Los Angeles Times about off-road vehicle related national security problems on the border in the BLM managed Algodones (Imperial) Dunes.

To serve the off-road lobby, the Bush/Cheney administration risks the lives of agents and the public by not keeping ORVs north of I-8.

Congress must act before someone else is killed.

Good job by LA Times picking up on this big story broke by Daniel's News & Views on Jan 23.