The Range

Hatchet Man

Timmmber! If the Bush administration has its way, trees are gonna be falling in the Grand Canyon state--and, as it turns out, they'll be tall and mighty old-growth trees right next the Grand Canyon itself.

The Sierra Club released a Wildlands at Risk report last week, which included two pending conservation catastrophes in Arizona. The tree-huggers identified Kaibab National Forest, "home to some of the Southwest's most intact and extensive remaining old-growth forests," as endangered thanks to the Bush administration's plan for a timber sale just north of Grand Canyon National Park. Bush also plans to let the lumberjacks break out the chainsaws in several other nearby areas, including "a scenic east rim overlook with background views of the Grand Canyon, Marble Canyon Gorge, the Vermilion Cliffs and portions of the Navajo and Hopi Reservations," according to the report.

"The Bush administration should be funding projects that protect communities at risk from wildfires, not logging old-growth trees in a remote area of the backcountry near the rim of the Grand Canyon," said Sharon Galbreath, a Sierra Club volunteer.

The Sierra Club report also noted that the Bush administration is dragging its heels on developing a management plan for the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, which was created by presidential decree by Bill Clinton in the final days of his administration. Until a management plan is developed, the monument remains threatened by overgrazing, logging and off-road vehicle abuse.

"It is critically important that the Bush administration clearly hears the public demand for our nation's treasures be adequately protected for current and future generations," says Julie Sherman of the Sierra Club.

State of Terror

The 9/11 commission released its final report, which revealed, among other things, that intelligence reports indicated that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization was working on various hijacking schemes, as well as developing schemes to use planes as missiles.

Arizona was a favorite retreat for Islamist extremists, including hijacker Hani Hanjour and bin Laden's personal assistant, Wadi El-Hage, who is now serving a life sentence for plotting to blow up American embassies. We're so popular that the CIA and FBI teamed up to write a still-secret memo entitled "Arizona: Long Term Nexus for Islamic Extremists."

Fox News viewers may be interested to learn that the commission found no link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Winged Death

Sad news from the Reid Park Zoo: An Elliot's Thrush has perished from the West Nile virus. The exotic bird is the first victim of West Nile virus, which is transmitted from infected birds to mosquitoes and then to humans, and has killed two people in Arizona this year.

"Despite the death of one of our birds, there is very little risk to zoo visitors," said general curator Scott Barton in a prepared statement. "Visiting the zoo is as safe as visiting any other public venue; just keep mosquitoes in mind wherever you go and take precautions." Barton added that zoo officials follow an aggressive routine of mosquito abatement.

City officials urged Tucsonans to empty containers of standing water, smear repellent all over their bodies and dress in full-containment hazwaste gear when outdoors.

Poll Positions

Is John Kerry Arizona's Comeback Kid? The Democratic nominee saw a dramatic turnaround in a KAET-TV poll released last week, which showed that Kerry is now the pick of 42 percent of the voters, while 41 percent support Bush. Another 17 percent remained undecided. Last month's KAET poll showed that Bush held a eight-point lead among likely voters.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press compiled a state-by-state survey that showed that Bush had a slight lead in electoral votes, holding 25 states worth 217 electoral votes. Kerry had the edge in 14 states and the District of Columbia, which are worth 193 electoral votes. The candidates are running even in 11 states that represent 128 electoral votes. Winning the presidency requires 270 electoral votes.

The KAET poll of 387 registered voters also showed that 74 percent supported the Protect Arizona Now initiative that would forbid illegal immigrants from receiving state services. Just 16 percent opposed the PAN initiative.

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