Forest Serviced

Smokey Delivers The Coup De Grace To The Tucson Rod & Gun Club.

By Emil Franzi

THERE'S AN OLD civil rights story that goes like this:

Alabama, 1930s. A retired doctor from the north returns to his old hometown after many years. He walks into the local county courthouse and asks if black people can register to vote. He's told yes, they can. But they must first pass a literacy test. He says no problem. They produce a Chinese newspaper, hand it to the doctor, and say, "Can you read this?" He looks at it for a moment and responds "I sure can. It says there aren't going to be any black folks voting in this county."

By a similar process, there isn't going to be any rifle range allowed in the Coronado National Forest. No appropriate site is available in the entire 647 square miles.

Currents The U.S. Forest Service has completed its long-term goal of killing the Tucson Rod & Gun Club. Forest Service officials set the deadline of November 20 to present an option for the club's now-closed shooting range near the mouth of Sabino Canyon. Forest Service District Supervisor John McGee did so by presenting, with a straight face, the most ludicrous option of all: He chose to let the club remain on its present site if its members would simply build an indoor facility.

The local media not only accepted this obvious ploy on its face, but in some cases actually endorsed it, which tells us how far the mandarin bureaucracy has gone toward making the policies they're merely hired to carry out. The Tucson Citizen at least found the proposal "unreasonable." The Arizona Daily Star actually thinks it's a good idea. Damn, are we lucky these people weren't around to write about Goebbels.

Tucson is once again being subjected to the Forest Service mantra, belched repeatedly by the local gullible establishment press, that the range was closed for safety reasons. Abundant evidence in the Forest Service's own records reveal that the decision to get rid of the club had nothing to do with the safety cover story, and that the so-called "safety study" was a fraud written by an unqualified stooge. The Forest Service hoax moves to an even higher level with the "indoor range" proposal.

Never mind that there are no indoor rifle ranges anywhere in the United States. It's an outdoor sport, like hiking and climbing. Never mind that even were it to be constructed, it would eliminate both black powder shooting and trap and skeet (unless McGee would sign off on a high-rise portion for the latter). Never mind that the cost of building a giant warehouse of re-enforced concrete with the appropriate ventilation system would be astronomical. Never mind that the club would have to be out of its mind to pay for that facility with a guarantee of keeping it only for another 20 years. Never mind that nobody in her right mind, except perhaps a dazed Star editorial writer, wants to see a building twice the size of a football field in the entrance to Sabino Canyon.

McGee threw out all other options for an outdoor site based on one criterion--noise. He has decreed, in total opposition to a resolution unanimously passed by the United States Senate re-affirming the multiple use of forest lands to include shooting ranges and specifically naming this one, that the will of the Senate does not apply to his backyard, which leads me to suspect that his decision wasn't reached without the approval of his bosses in the Department of Agriculture. No third-string bureaucrat would flip Congress this big a finger without top cover.

Anti-gun zealots are, of course, praising the decision. They place their own dislike of letting anybody shoot anything anywhere ahead of the basic principles of accurate reporting and representative government. If a government agency can lie as badly as Smokey has and get away with it, that's dangerous for everybody's personal freedom. And if they can alter policy made by Congress and get away with that too, that's even worse. It's time for some treehuggers and the Sarah Brady Bunch to wake up. They might not like the next railroad by an unelected bureaucracy.

Some comments made to the Forest Service during the information-gathering section of the "process" protested using any part of the forest for shooting. Some find the sound disconcerting; others said they didn't want to subsidize a sport they didn't like. There are also people who feel similarly about golf, tennis, soccer and all the stuff that goes on at a host of government-run and taxpayer-funded recreation centers. And the "pristine quietness" of Sabino Canyon has been a joke since the trams were installed, which are louder and more obnoxious to many than gunshots. The big difference is apparently that the trams are a "revenue source."

There is one more ingredient in the "poison pill" issued to the club. By offering a clearly unacceptable option, the Forest Service can now claim the club is leaving voluntarily. And try to stick it to them for an environmental clean-up of the site. The club has volunteered to do a clean-up on its own, as it volunteered to initiate measures that would mitigate sound and make the safety improvements called for in the now infamous "Shumsky Report." But the Forest Service prefers to hire whatever outside contractors it chooses--a process already bordering on corruption concerning other decisions not limited to fraudulent safety studies. The projected cost to the club? Perhaps a million and half dollars.

WHAT OPTIONS are yet available to the club? Congressman Jim Kolbe, recently re-elected, was publicly indignant about reading about the decision in the paper. The Forest Service had released it prior to delivery to its intended recipients, the Rod & Gun Club, an insulting public-relations ploy and favorite tactic of phony politicians. After some sputtering indignation, Kolbe has said he'd look around to see if there might be some federal money to actually construct the monstrosity McGee suggested.

Senator Jon Kyl's office is "pursuing other options," the most viable of which is an appeal of McGee's decision to his ultimate boss, Secretary of the Interior Dan Glickman. Glickman, a former U.S. House member from Kansas, will be asked who should make ultimate policy. Will he honor what Congress has said it wants, or, like most cabinet members, is he just another showcase prisoner of the bureaucracy he theoretically heads? Don't hold your breath. Potted plants thrive far beyond the Tucson City Council.

Kolbe missed his chance to influence the outcome of this fight during the House Appropriations process when he failed to muscle the Forest Service on behalf of a new rifle range site for the club. Appropriations muscling is something many of Kolbe's colleagues engage in to win projects in their home districts. Even Phoenix-area Congressman J. D. Hayworth, generally considered one of the great buffoons in Washington, was able to control a recalcitrant bureaucracy for his constituents by demanding parameters for a certain park site by exercising the appropriations prerogative that Kolbe declined. Which makes us wonder about who the real buffoon is. Forest Service officials obviously considered Kolbe so politically impotent that they let him discover their decision from the media.

In the meantime, some of us are reminded that this is not a new issue. It goes back many centuries, and was illustrated in a classic 1938 movie. Errol Flyn, Alan Hale, Basil Rathbone, Robin Hood, Little John, the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. The issue--who got to use Sherwood Forest? The people or the corrupt government officials? TW

 Page Back  Last Issue  Current Week  Next Week  Page Forward

Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Books | Cinema | Back Page | Archives

Weekly Wire    © 1995-98 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth