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Pete Aleshire

Stories by Pete

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Forests at a terrible tipping point

Conference looks at Schultz Fire as an example of the peril to forested communities

Wildfires pose a dire threat to forested communities which only regional efforts and a dramatic shift in forest management can avert, expert speakers told a statewide audience at a Flagstaff conference on forest health and wildfires sponsored by Arizona Forward on Friday.

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Praying for light as the storm gathers

A photographer finds a strange truth in the quest for sunset amongst the ruins of Wupatki

The gathering storm matched my mood: I was sore afflicted — and full of trouble.

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Poor rich people and dark money

The Greasy Pole

Man, it’s getting weird out there.

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Health insurance expansion tangled in court

State lawmakers seek to reverse coverage for 300,000

Lawsuits, contradictory court rulings and election politics continue to bedevil the Affordable Healthcare Act, even now that it’s up and running.

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Site shopping

Alliance studying costs of four sites for university

The Rim Country Educational Alliance has hired the Tetra Tech engineering firm to provide a detailed analysis of four possible university sites, including the preferred 253-acre Forest Service-owned parcel on which the Alliance will get an appraisal in the next few weeks.

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Thinning contract: ‘A monumental task’

The logging company many hope will protect forested communities from catastrophic wildfires continues to struggle to marshal a massive effort, but hasn’t yet cut much, participants at a conference on Forest Health learned last week.

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Forest Service now letting fires burn

The smoke that this week poured down off the Rim from two fires totaling 5,000 acres marks a striking shift in Forest Service fire strategy in an urgent effort to prevent community and forest-destroying wildfires.

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Flood of Controversy

Tower Well, Blue Ridge again bubble into politics

Two years after council members from neighboring towns declared the water wars at an end, Payson’s ongoing use of the Tower Well in Star Valley has bubbled up into the council campaigns in both towns.

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A shaggy dog tale of the osprey and the wolf

Travels With Lobo

The shrill whistle cut through soft lapping of Woods Canyon Lake on the forested shore. I looked up, as I stepped over a gnarly ponderosa pine root.

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Governor candidate hails Payson’s plan

Former Congressman Frank Riggs stressed his knowledge of the federal government, his fierce opposition to federal Common Core standards and his long political experience in his pitch for the Republican nomination for governor to a select audience at Chaparral Pines in Payson recently, the latest in a parade of Republican candidates to make repeated visits to Rim Country.

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Pine-Strawberry board ponders mystery of the missing well

Holiday weekend forces district to juggle supply

First it’s the frigging itty-bitty little pipes.

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Candidate calls for pragmatic solutions

State House candidate Lanny Morrison wants better schools, even if it means a tax increase

The state Legislature should pay schools the inflation adjustments recently ordered by the courts and further increase spending on schools and higher education, state legislative candidate Lanny Morrison told a gathering of the Democratic Club of Northern Gila County last week.

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Pine plan panned

Board frets about future

In a meeting marked by good humor and civility, the newly seated Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District’s irritation with the draft of a master plan for the future stood out.

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Painfully dry year

Blue Ridge nearly empty

The Blue Ridge Reservoir has dwindled to just 28 percent of its capacity in the wake of one of the driest years ever recorded on the watersheds of the Salt and Verde rivers.

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Monsoon storms clear as temperatures rise

Chance of rain rises after Tuesday as "severe" drought continues

The monsoon conditions that have quenched the fire danger and delivered greater than normal rainfall for the past two weeks will likely clear up today and Monday. The US Weather Service puts the chance of rain in Payson at just about zero today and tomorrow.

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Judge candidate tackles conflict

Town attorney Tim Wright seeks superior court seat

Candidate for a Gila County Superior Court judgeship Tim Wright made a low-key appeal for support to the Rim Country Republicans on Saturday, touting his background and explaining his judicial philosophy.

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In the rough

Water contract roils mayor’s race

Challenger Randy Roberson has raised sharp questions about the deal incumbent Payson Mayor Kenny Evans negotiated and the town council approved with the town’s two private country clubs to provide irrigation water for their golf courses for the next 50 years.

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Governor candidate wants to end income tax

Bennett pushes broader version of sales tax in Payson appearance

Arizona should accelerate growth by replacing the income tax with a much broader version of the sales tax a Republican candidate for governor told the Payson Tea Party last week. The 3-5 percent tax on services and products would also replace the current, exemption-riddled sales tax, Secretary of State Ken Bennett said.

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Controversy continues about how Forest Service should cover the $2 billion annual cost of fighting fires

Senate committee hearing focuses on devastating impact of wildfires in the west

A key senate committee continues to debate a new way to finance federal firefighting and forest thinning efforts sponsored by U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake.

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State offers schools help in tracking student data

The Arizona Department of Education has awarded a contract with a private vendor it hopes will significantly reduce the cost to school districts of tracking students, in the face of shifts that will increasingly link school funding to student test scores.

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Downed by disaster

Archeologist charts 10,000-year history of humans in Rim Country until climate catastrophe struck

Archeologists have found new clues to explain the climate disaster that brought an ancient civilization crashing down in ruins scattered across Rim Country, Tonto National Forest Archeologist Scott Wood told a fascinated gathering of listeners at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park on Saturday.

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Gisela continues to simmer

Angry Gisela residents have asked the Arizona Corporation Commission to reconsider its recent approval of a huge water rate increase — and in the meantime are investigating drilling their own wells.

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In the saddle of the Great Ones

The little Navajo girl chased the calf all the way to the end of the arena, her rope twirling overhead. I could hardly breathe, afraid she’d fall off that towering horse, but her face was wreathed in a grin of pure joy, the latest in a long line of expert horsemen.

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Fossil Creek: ‘Outstandingly remarkable’

Unique features dictate management

Who matters most?

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Cutting the baby in half

Forest Service grapples with no-win choices

Confronted with two women’s voracious conflicting demands for a disputed baby, King Solomon proposed cutting the infant neatly in half.

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Congressman lays out impeachment plan

Rep. Paul Gosar last week said he hopes Republicans can use a no-confidence vote and the threat of impeachment of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to force Senate Democrats to stay off the campaign trail in October.

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Monsoon hits home

Tonto Forest restrictions lifted

As the monsoon took hold this week, the Tonto National Forest lifted fire restrictions and the Coconino National Forest reopened Fossil Creek.

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We’ve run out of time

Assessment shows big impact on Southwest even with aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

We’ve run out of time.

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Worth the wait ...

I sat hunched in the rain on the forlorn shore of the Green Valley Park Lake, the brilliant, cloud-dappled sunlight of the afternoon a distant memory.

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We’ll see fire ... and we’ll see rain

Droughts and floods: worse than we thought

Two recent studies show the climate of the Southwest can produce much worse droughts and floods than we had assumed based on the placid weather of the 20th century.

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Meeting will focus on fate of Fossil Creek

A previously postponed high-stakes meeting on a plan to protect Fossil Creek by sharply restricting visitation will now take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, July 8 at the Payson campus of Gila Community College in room 301.

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Superintendent of education race takes a bizarre turn

The Greasy Pole

Wow: The normally staid and predictable mud-wrestle for the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction job has gotten downright bizarre.

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Monsoon’s onset will bring both relief and risks

Fingers crossed — we might see monsoon thunderstorms this week.

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Blazes drive home urgent lessons

Dangerous San Juan Fire proves value of thinning projects

The struggle to contain the explosive, 6,400-acre San Juan Fire east of Show Low has once again demonstrated the value of thinning projects designed to both control wildfires and improve forest health.

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San Juan Fire grows to 5,000 acres

A fire in the White Mountains exploded into a dangerous, 5,000-acre blaze, prompting evacuations and a rush of fire crews and air tankers to the scene. Officials ordered evacuations in the Veron area as the fast-growing wildfire straddling the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest advanced on dozens of structures.

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Thinning increases runoff

Reducing wildfire threat would also yield water

Thinning thick, overgrown forests in northern Arizona could increase runoff for downstream cities by up to 12 percent in most years, according to a groundbreaking, years-long study by researchers from Northern Arizona University’s Ecological Restoration Institute.

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First the fire, then the flood: mudslides, debris now threaten

Alarming study documents dramatic jump in erosion on burned slopes

The projected onset of the summer monsoon perhaps as early as next week should lower the extreme fire danger — but poses a whole new threat in areas already burned.

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Gila County AHCCCS rolls up 19 percent

Struggle continues over expansion of medical program that covers 31 percent of residents

Gila County in the past year had the second-biggest surge in people gaining medical coverage from the state’s still threatened expansion of its Medicaid-funded Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.

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Riddle in time

Enigmatic ‘Spanish Ruins’ raise more questions than they answer

I huffed along behind Roy Sandoval, sweating freely under the intense afternoon sun. He paused on the now-steep road ahead to let me catch up.

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Payson’s revenues rising – so is town spending

Sales jump 7%, building up 44%

Payson’s economic rebound continued in May, according to the town’s monthly financial tracking report.

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How fire made us the dominant species on Earth

Al Cornell spit deliberately on his hands, then fitted the perfectly straight stick he cut from an ignored weed somewhere into the carefully shaved and drilled piece of yucca wood set firmly on top of a piece of inner cottonwood bark.

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Payson family escapes house fire

A Payson family escaped a house fire on Friday afternoon that sent up a pillar of smoke visible all over town.

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Wildfires keep on coming

Rim Country enters another dangerous weekend

Rim Country heads into another dangerous weekend with the fire danger “very high” and crews battling fires throughout the region.

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Forest planners face sweeping changes

Tonto Forest Plan meeting seeks input on conflicting demands

Would you rather save a barely discernable 800-year-old village — or camp on a hilltop with a view of the Verde River?

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Payson smoothes out impact fee kerfuffle

Officials say Native Grill and Wings on track to open 260-seat restaurant

Native Grill and Wings remains on track to open a 240-seat restaurant in Payson, despite a flurry of concern about the town’s water impact fees.

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Road crews heroes to firefighters

Arizona Department of Transpor­tation road crews have emerged as unlikely heroes in one of the most frightening fire seasons on record.

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Plucky candidate in governor’s race returns to Payson

Christine Jones trying to move to front of crowded Republican field

Go Daddy Internet executive and political novice Christine Jones would love to have the contest for the Republican nomination for governor focus on her sweet spot — reviving the economy by attracting high-tech entrepreneurs and manufacturers.

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New plan for Fossil Creek

The Forest Service will hold a meeting in Payson Monday to gather comments on its latest plan to protect Fossil Creek from the impact of the 90,000 people a year drawn to its deep, turquoise pools teeming with endangered native fish.

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Danger ‘extreme’

Rim Country will careen into yet another weekend with the fire danger set at “extreme” and a forecast calling for hot, dry winds and another red flag warning.

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Road money crisis

Gila County needs to spend at least $32 million expanding and maintaining its nearly 800 miles of paved and dirt roads, which means the county desperately hopes voters will extend a half-cent sales tax surcharge for another 20 years, county officials and consultants told an intent group of voters at the Democratic Women’s Club meeting this week.