A Veteran Dreamer Takes Over Airport

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We wanted to take a moment to welcome Beth Myers back. The new full-time manager of the Payson Airport was a Realtor in Payson, before moving away for a couple of years. Now, the lifelong flying fanatic has returned to take on the airport at a crucial moment.

It seems fitting that the Young Eagles festivities at the airport this weekend represents her first big event since taking over. The weekend event will offer children and teens the thrill of a flight in a small plane, soaring above the scenic wonders of Rim Country.

Just such a thrill when she was 17 changed the course of Myers’ life, installing in her a lifelong love of flying. Like any great passion, that love conferred its great gifts and extracted its sometimes heartbreaking price. But perhaps she can teach the kids that show up this weekend more than the joy of flying — perhaps they can learn from her that you have to chase your dreams, even the ones you’re not likely to catch.

Myers will need all of that passion and commitment in the next couple of years as the Payson Airport faces a stacked-up holding pattern of challenges.

The airport has developed a $10 million master plan that will make necessary safety improvements and lay the groundwork for the airport to reach its potential. Those changes include a new restaurant that could become one of the most distinctive dining experiences in town. But more important, the partnership between the airport authority and the town financed largely by the Federal Aviation Administration could provide the infrastructure to lure a valuable lineup of airport-related businesses.

In the process, advocates for the airport predict takeoffs and landings will rise from 40,000 at present to at least 66,000 — increasing the airport’s $20 million contribution to the regional economy.

Fortunately, after some years of drift and confusion, the town and the volunteer group running the airport authority seem to have worked out their relationship. Now, they have handed the joystick over to an experienced pilot.

That’s reassuring, because one thing pilots know for certain: You’d better pay very close attention when the wheels of a dream touch down on the tarmac of reality.

Eagles soar above human foolishness

We’re glad that bald eagles seem to have more good sense than people. We take great heart from the continuing increase in the number of desert nesting bald eagles in Arizona. A record 52 pairs of bald eagles nested along Arizona streams and lakes this year, adding three new nest sites to the known territories.

Those nesting eagles produced 44 kiddos who lived long enough to leave the nest — not a record, but nearly twice as many fledglings as they managed to rear in 2000.

They no doubt got a boost this year from our wet winter and deep snowpack, which kept the streams flowing and full of fish all summer.

The bald eagles have proven themselves flexible, adaptable and sensible — ever since we banned the pesticide that drove them to the brink of extinction.

Clever birds. Wish we could say as much for the humans trying to protect them, caught in a legal tangle as vexing as a coil of knotted fishing line in an eagle nest.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a couple of years ago, decided that bald eagles in North America no longer needed the extra protections conferred by their listing as an endangered species. So the feds delisted the national bird — a rousing conservation success story.

That delisting included the small population of desert nesting bald eagles, which are smaller, nest earlier, occupy key breeding territories and apparently don’t mate with outside eagles that migrate through the region.

Several environmental groups and tribes — including the Tonto Apache Tribe — filed suit to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to leave the extra protections in place. The environmentalists cited the opinions of biologists and population projections that suggested the desert eagles could easily die out — leaving a big gap in the range of the stately birds nationally. The tribes argued that the eagles have a vital cultural and religious significance. The tribes would suffer great harm if the desert eagles vanished, even if eagles still wheeled on the thermals elsewhere.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should have smiled sheepishly, re-read the reports of its own field biologists and left the protections in place for the desert eagles. Instead, the federal agency went to court — wasting time and money and an opportunity to build consensus instead of deepen divisions. Hopefully, a federal court judge will once again insist that the Fish and Wildlife Service follow the law and protect the eagles.

Fortunately, the eagles themselves have proved unflappable. They have gone right on getting on with their ancient business, wheeling high above the unseemly squabbles of lawyers.

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