Fires And Bears And Bureaucrats

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The forest can be a scary place.

Fires and bears and bureaucrats.

Bureaucrats? Well, yes — marginally less dangerous, but way more frustrating than your average grizzly.

So we’re glad that Rim Country Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick has come clippy clopping to the rescue of Payson’s momentarily stalled effort to follow a faint trail of bread crumbs on the overgrown path to the Forest Service’s gingerbread house approval process.

The town of Payson has spent years lining up the approvals needed by a bafflement of government agencies to build a $30-million pipeline to carry 3,500-acre-feet annually from the Blue Ridge Reservoir to Payson.

That epic struggle resulted in a law obligating the Salt River Project to strike a deal with Payson and other Northern Gila County water users.

About two years ago, the town started laying the groundwork to win Forest Service approval of a pipeline running over forest land along Houston Mesa Road.

Environmental laws require the Forest Service to consider the impact on wildlife and the environment, which makes perfect sense when you’re dealing with a vital streamside habitat.

Finally, about five months ago, Payson asked the Tonto National Forest for permission to do the environmental study, which will itself take a year or so.

Five months later, that request still sits on some desk in the TNF’s Phoenix office, apparently for want of an approval stamp.

Not a good sign — considering the long road ahead.

So Payson pressed Kirkpatrick for the bill to make it clear that the federal Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for approving and monitoring the project. Given the Bureau’s long experience in building such projects, that makes perfect sense.

We hope that Congress will swiftly adopt this measure and our little fairy tale will have a swift and happy ending that does not involve anyone getting eaten by wolves — or bears — or bureaucrats, for that matter.

In the meantime, perhaps the Tonto National Forest could provide a happy little plot twist by hacking through the thicket of proposals that seems to have sprouted atop that almost mythical bureaucrat’s desk in Phoenix.

We bet there’s a little bag of bread crumbs and maybe an “approved” stamp buried in the bottom of some desk drawer somewhere.

If not, please let us know — we’ll Fed-ex a stamp.

And then we’ll all live happily ever after.

Holed up in the Alamo

When it comes to cowboy stories, you gotta pick your metaphors with some care.

So maybe you could reckon the odd and confusing struggle between the Pro Rodeo Committee and the new Rodeo Preservation Alliance qualifies as a rerun of the Pleasant Valley War, pitting cattlemen against stockmen.

You could spin it that way. After all, you got your cowboy volunteers who have lavished their efforts on staging the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo for 20 years, as chamber of commerce boards have come and gone like spring grass. Now all of a sudden they’re out — and these city slickers are running things, all apparently over a tussle of about maybe $5,000.

Well. Actually — that’s the tall tale being sold on the rumor mill. The truth appears a bit more complicated.

The Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce was losing money it couldn’t afford and couldn’t come to new terms with the Pro Rodeo Committee — which reflected some confusion and old business on both sides.

So now everyone involved ought to pull their hats down hard against that fiscal prairie wind and cowboy up.

We’re hopeful the Alliance, with a membership that reflects a broad cross section of community leaders, will somehow ride the fence line through the blizzard back to the barn. The emphasis on getting the whole town involved through a week-long series of events leading up to the rodeo weekend seems a promising approach.

We were also heartened by the strong statements of support for the rodeo offered on Thursday by Rodeo Boss Bill Armstrong and other members of the pro-rodeo board. They’ve certainly paid their dues in mud, blood and beer, keeping the rodeo going and supporting many community groups. And while they’re a bit bruised and even heartbroken at the way it all worked out, they say they’ll still saddle up to answer the call.

Could be it’ll all work out. Forget that whole stockmen and cattlemen thing. Truth be told, it’s more like we’re all holed up in the Alamo — besieged by budgets.

Could be the cavalry we hear coming — yellow ribbons fluttering and bugles calling. So it’d be a hell of a time to start shooting at one another — given the scarcity of powder. Fortunately, at least for the moment — everyone seems to get it. Heck, boys, we do love our bulls. But you know, sheep ain’t so bad if you give ’em a chance.

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