Arizona State Parks Suffer From Financial Neglect

Source: Special by William Thornton to the Arizona Daily Star – November 10, 2018

A recent story in the Arizona Daily Star noted that Gov. Ducey has placed Arizona State Parks and Trails Director Sue Black on leave. There’s more to the story. Following the Arizona Republic’s Oct. 29 report that archaeological sites in state parks have been bulldozed to make way for cabins to generate additional revenue, four Native American state legislators requested a criminal investigation to determine whether state and federal laws were violated.

It’s been a wild roller coaster ride for state parks. In September 2017 Arizona State Parks and Trails was awarded the gold medal for the best managed system by the National Recreation and Parks Association. A remarkable turn round when, not so long ago, parks were closing for lack of funding and those remaining open were faced with millions of dollars of backlogged maintenance.

First a bit of history. In 1957, Gov. Ernest McFarland signed the bill that created the Arizona State Parks System, but legislators failed to appropriate funds to provide parks to serve the outdoor recreational needs of a rapidly growing urban population. In 1990, Arizona voters created the Heritage Fund that appropriated $20 million lottery dollars per year to be divided equally between State Parks and Arizona Game and Fish. The infusion of funds provided Arizona State Parks with “seed money” for new properties, to improve existing facilities and complete historical restorations. Every community in Arizona has benefited from Parks Heritage Fund grants at zero cost to taxpayers.

Even with new facilities and increased visitation, state parks suffered from chronic underfunding for operations and maintenance. General fund appropriations ended in 2010. In response to the economic downturn in 2011, the entire Parks Heritage Fund balance was swept into the state general fund and the Parks Heritage Fund was eliminated.

The State Parks Board was left with little choice but to close some of the least visited parks and historic sites. With help from legions of volunteers, host communities responded with heroic efforts to keep their parks open. The outpouring of support for parks was inspiring but not sustainable. A long-term solution was needed. Parks funding is not a problem unique to Arizona. Former Gov. Janet Napolitano appointed a commission to explore additional sources of revenue. The final report was released after Gov. Brewer took office. Possible funding solutions included a voluntary license plate surcharge that’s been successful in other states.

Despite bipartisan support, efforts to refer a bill to voters that would restore the Parks Heritage Fund and provide a dedicated source of parks funding stalled in the Arizona Legislature. An initiative drive failed in 2012. Finances improved when the Legislature allowed Arizona State Parks to keep more revenue from gate receipts, special events and gift shop sales. Visitation was on an upward trajectory when, in 2016, the parks department announced an ambitious program to build 100 new cabins in nine parks to be financed by a public/private partnership. Profits were to be shared by state parks and concessionaires. The question of whether Arizona Parks and Trails would share in any losses was left unanswered.

Fast forward to the present. The job of Parks Director comes with the awesome responsibility of managing natural and cultural resources for present and future generations. After decades of underfunding, it’s understandable that pressure to generate additional revenue was intense. That said, the infliction of irreparable damage to archaeological sites, even if inadvertent, cannot be excused or rationalized. Gov. Ducey has taken an important first step by placing Director Black on leave as the investigation proceeds.

Whether or not laws were broken, Arizona Parks and Trails and Director Black failed to meet her responsibilities and must be held accountable. Even so, the underlying issue of underfunding remains. Revenue generation has taken priority over stewardship of natural and cultural resources. Storm clouds over Arizona State Parks may have a silver lining if we follow up with restoration of the Parks Heritage Fund and a dedicated source of revenue for parks that belong to all Arizonans. The ball is in our court.

State Parks Bulldozed Archaeological Sites for Cabins, Trails, Ex-agency Archaeologist Says

Source: Craig Harris, Arizon Republic – October 29, 2018

Arizona State Parks & Trails has dug up and bulldozed Native American and other archaeological sites without preserving artifacts in a rush to build visitor attractions and make money, a state archaeologist claims. In one case, Parks unearthed ancient stone tools and caused “irreversible” damage to a site dating back 12,000 years, according to agency memos.

The archaeologist, Will Russell, told The Arizona Republic he repeatedly cautioned Parks officials that
the work could violate the law and destroy artifacts, but he was overruled and even threatened by top agency managers, including Parks Director Sue Black. “There are dozens of archaeological sites that have been wrecked” because Parks officials didn’t want to delay development plans, Russell told The Republic. Russell left his job with Parks on Oct. 15 and now works for another state agency.

A high-ranking administrator in Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration appeared to share Russell’s concerns in a July 25 email obtained by The Republic.  Interim Parks Deputy Director Bret Parke wrote about cultural resources “being impacted by development projects,” according to the email. Parke warned the agency in bold letters to not proceed “with any land disturbance without getting clearance” from Russell. Copied on Parke’s email were Black, a Department of Administration executive and Russell.

Russell said agency planners ignored that warning, and in mid-September Parke was moved from Parks to the Department of Environmental Quality, where he had previously worked. Megan Rose, spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Administration, said ADOA is “actively reviewing the allegations brought forth by Dr. Russell,” and could not comment further. Multiple attempts to reach Parke were unsuccessful. A spokeswoman for DEQ declined to let Parke comment. Black, subject of three separate state investigations for mistreating employees, declined repeated requests for comment.

Russell said he took his concerns directly to Parke, the interim deputy director, who also was a lawyer at ADOA and has close ties to Gov. Doug Ducey and officials in the Governor’s Office. Russell called it curious that ADOA was only now investigating his claims — after officials became aware that he had talked to The Republic.  Parks spokeswoman Michelle Thompson declined to answer questions because Russell’s allegations are “under review.” Thompson did not elaborate. Paula Pflepsen, an archaeologist who was Park’s cultural resource manager until she quit in February 2017, said she had the same concerns about work at the agency.

‘Dozens’ of sites wrecked

Russell said disagreements over preservation grew so intense Black stormed into his office one day last
spring and yelled at him. She cocked her arm with a clenched fist, threatening to hit him, he said. Russell said as a result he was rarely permitted to leave the agency’s central office to conduct archaeological surveys or do damage assessments at the state’s 35 parks. He also wasn’t allowed to communicate with field staff or other governmental agencies, he said. “The agency’s mission is to protect and preserve natural and cultural resources, but we aren’t doing any of that. We are just putting up cabins and making money,” Russell said. “One of her favorite adages is ask for forgiveness rather than permission. But she doesn’t even ask for forgiveness, and she certainly never tries to go back and fix problems.”

Russell claims that under Black’s direction, the agency:

  • Built a garden in an archaeological site at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, north of Payson, after being told to wait for an archaeological investigation. Russell noted in an April 14 memo to three Parks executives that the damage affected historic properties and “is irreversible, was not authorized, and was not monitored by a qualified archaeologist.” The memo also says work at the site exposed artifacts including “two lithic tools.” The site likely has “been visited or occupied over the span of 12 millenia or more,” and could have provided information about Apache subsistence and demography that has “thus far eluded Southwestern archaeologists,” he wrote.
  • Expanded a picnic area into a historical homestead site at Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon, north of Sedona. In March 16 memo, Russell noted a historic roadway ended at a large area that had been bulldozed and unauthorized development work had been done, causing “land disturbance.” “This is a serious violation of several statutes, policies and acceptable practices,” Russell wrote. “If an ancestral Native American sited had been damaged, it would have added considerable liability.”
  • Built a trail in 2016 at Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park near Yarnell that went through a Native American archaeological site after being warned not to. Russell said when he tried to address the problem, Black rebuffed his efforts and removed him from his role as tribal liaison.
  • Refused to allow employees responsible for environmental or archaeological compliance to do their jobs.

Walter “Skip” Varney, the agency’s former chief of development, called Russell “very reputable” in his field. Varney, who left Parks in May, confirmed all of Russell’s allegations except those involving the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park, saying in that case proper procedures were followed. Varney said Russell’s greatest concern “was to make sure we took care of archaeological sites and did it properly.” “She (Black) was frustrated with the archaeological process,” said Varney, who once served as Black’s deputy director. “She wanted to get projects on the ground, and she and Will went back and forth. … It was all about new development and squeezing in as many campsites and trailers.”

State law prohibits defacing sites

The Arizona Antiquities Act outlines how archaeological and paleontological discoveries on state land should be reported and handled. It prohibits defacing protected sites and artifacts. Russell said county attorneys, the state Attorney General and U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecute alleged violations of that law, depending on where the violations are alleged to have occurred.  Pflepsen said Parks, under Black, regularly violated the state Antiquities Act in order to generate additional development revenue. Parks would have to ask authorities for such an investigation.

Russell said he raised his concerns with the State Historic Preservation Office, which assists entities in complying with historic preservation laws. SHPO is also under Black’s jurisdiction. State Historic Preservation Officer Kathryn Leonard said she was unable to comment without Black’s authorization. The agency did not allow Leonard to speak to The Republic. Russell also made his complaints known to various tribes and federal agencies during his roughly one year on the job.

‘What is your true intention?’

The most heated exchange between Russell and Black arose from his questions about Parks land near Lake Havasu, slated for development as the Havasu Riviera resort.  Russell said the land was bulldozed without proper archaeological compliance.

When Russell posed questions about the site in a March 29 memo to state and federal agencies and several Native American tribes, he said Black stormed into his office and screamed at him.  “She said ‘How dare you do this? This is a $300 million project, and you could have derailed the whole thing,'” Russell said. “Then she leaned over me with a clenched fist and said, ‘What is your true intention?'”

Russell said Deputy Director Jim Keegan the next day forced him to sign an apology letter to those agencies and tribes and retract his concerns. The terse, four-paragraphletter, which Russell said he did not write, states he had not “exhausted all of my internal resources in researching the background on the project” and that he didn’t follow proper protocol. The statement, on Parks letterhead, refers questions to Keegan, a longtime friend of Black’s who has a felony criminal record.

The style of writing in the apology letter differs greatly from the technical writings of Russell in hundreds of other documents he provided to The Republic. Russell said Keegan wouldn’t let him leave the building to pick up his children until he signed the letter, and he was afraid Black would fire him. Russell said he signed it after insisting that some of the grammar be corrected.  In retrospect, Russell said he’s embarrassed he signed the letter. “I never should have allowed that to happen,” he said. Keegan, when reached Thursday on his personal cellphone, referred questions to Thompson, the agency spokeswoman. She declined to comment.

Rapid turnover continues at Parks

Russell became the 36th full-time employee to leave the agency this year. The agency has 179 employees; 118 have quit or been fired since Ducey appointed Black in February 2015, according to public records obtained by The Republic. After The Republic requested comment regarding Russell’s claims the Governor’s Office said in a statement Wednesday that the allegations are “under review.”

“This administration cares deeply about protecting and preserving Arizona’s history and we expect our agencies to conduct their operations accordingly. We’ve also placed priority on forging strong relationships with Arizona tribes and the Native American community at all levels of state government,” said Daniel Ruiz, a spokesman for Ducey. Black has during her tenure faced numerous allegations of inappropriate and disrespectful behavior, including berating employees in front of other staff, disclosing confidential information, using racial slurs, getting drunk and belligerent while representing the agency at conferences, and trying to circumvent the state procurement code.

The allegations have led to three investigations, but Black has faced no discipline other than to have one of Ducey’s top administrators counsel her on how to treat employees.  Russell, 46, is the first former employee to publicly accuse Black of ignoring state and federal laws to boost revenue at Parks and has released documents to support his claims. He provided The Republic with hundreds of records, including some that were redacted. He said some of the issues arose before he started working at Parks in June 2017.

‘She doesn’t think compliance laws apply to her’

Despite a stream of controversies at Parks, Duceyhas continued to stand behind Black, praising her efforts to raise revenue at the agency and citing her winning a national award even as she has faced investigations of allegations that she has mistreating staff.  Ducey gave her a raise of more than 9 percent in November 2016, bringing her annual pay to $175,000. Black’s predecessor was paid $136,000 annually. The agency has distributed several photos of a smiling Ducey with Black, who is holding the award recognizing the nation’s best-run state parks program.  Ducey’s campaign spokesman, Daniel Scarpinato, declined to answer questions about the latest allegations against Black.

After leaving Parks this month, Russell, who studied anthropology at Arizona State University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 2016, was hired to do similar work for the state Department of Transportation. “All Sue Black cares about is her image and making money,” Russell said. “She doesn’t think compliance laws apply to her. She doesn’t think she needs permits to excavate or to do (archaeological) surveys. And she sees no point in collaborating with tribes.” Russell also questioned why Ducey keeps Black in her job in the face of yet another investigation into her treatment of staff. He said Black continually berated employees, including him. “She calls herself the Teflon director. She think she’s above the law. And thus far, she’s right,” he said. “Nothing sticks on her. The hubris is unreal.”

Reach the reporter at craig.harris@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8478 or on Twitter @charrisazrep.

Arizona Game and Fish Department Seeks Public Input

Source:  Arizona Game and Fish Department Email Blast – August 16, 2018

The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) is still seeking ideas for establishing and maintaining a discretionary, dedicated funding source for outreach, education and public awareness efforts.  To view ideas received to date, or to submit ideas throughout the 30-day public input period that ends September 8, visit  www.azgfd.com.  Ideas also can be emailed to ideas@azgfd.gov.Draft funding alternatives, based on this public input, vetting and benchmarking, will be presented to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission during its public meeting Sept. 21 at the Navajo County Heber Complex, 2188 W. Country Club Drive, in Overgaard.

There will be an additional opportunity for the public to provide input on select alternatives, based Commission direction. AZGFD will host a public forum and webcast at 6 p.m. on October 10 at department headquarters (Quail Room), 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix. The public will be able to ask questions or provide comments in person during the forum in the Quail Room, or by email from their smartphone or other device.

The webcast also can be viewed at any AZGFD regional office, where the public also can submit their questions or comments via email. The forum will kick off another 30-day comment period that ends Nov. 8. AZGFD then will present potential funding option(s) to the Commission at its public meeting Dec. 7 in Phoenix.

Desert Museum Pioneer Bill Woodin Leaves Lasting Legacy

Source:  Arizona Daily Star – May 5, 2018

When Bill Woodin was 6, he captured a snake that gave birth to 52 offspring in a single day. At age 11, he was photographed in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson holding a gopher snake longer than he was. At age 12, he charmed the Tucson Rotary Club with a snake talk.

Courtesy Anne Warner

These childhood events symbolized a lifelong love affair with the desert and its wildlife that crystallized in Woodin’s tenure as executive director of the Arizona- Sonora Desert Museum from 1954 to 1971. The museum’s second director, Woodin still has the longest tenure of any director in its 66-year history. He played a key role in building the museum into one of the top 10 zoological museums in the United States and making it an inte! rnational tourist attraction. ‘He was a living legend for all of those involved in the museum,’ said Craig Ivanyi, the museum’s director since 2010. ‘His passion and fingerprints are still there, found throughout this organization. He’s kind of into the fabric of its DNA.’

Woodin died in March at age 92, at the adobe ranch house on a 40-acre parcel bisected by Sabino Creek where he had lived since the early 1950s. His second wife, Beth, a longtime conservation activist and a former Desert Museum trustee, died in January at 71. A memorial service for both will be held May 27 at the museum.

Woodin as director shaped the museum’s future as much as any individual, after its initial vision was laid down by its co-founder and first director William Carr and co-founder and financial benefactor Arthur Pack. Carr resigned after barely two year! s due to ill health after the museum opened on Labor Day 1952. Woodin’s work catapulted the museum into a site whose visitors during his tenure included Eleanor Roosevelt and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

He inherited a facility with annual visitation of about 160,000. The year before he left, attendance had grown to 302,000. Today, the museum draws about 400,000 annual visitors.

Born William Woodin III, his introduction to the Sonoran Desert came at age 4 in 1930, when his parents moved the family to Tucson from his native New York City. His grandfather, also named William Woodin, was President Franklin Roosevelt’s first treasury secretary, instrumental in shaping Roosevelt’s declaration of a bank holiday in 1933 that helped rescue the then-ailing financial system during the peak of the Great Depression.

William III’s father, William Woodin II, and his mother, Carolyn Hyde, had a house built along a dirt Wilmot Road near Speedway, recalled Peter Woodin, a son of the former museum director. It was one of a handful of houses existing that far east in Tucson at the time. A neighboring home belonged to novelist Harold Bell Wright, for whom the Harold Bell Wright Estates neighborhood is now named.

Woodin’s parents were divorced in the 1930s. His mother married nationally known horse breeder Melville Haskell. They raised Woodin on a horse farm near the Rillito River near Swan Road. Haskell was a founder of the American Quarter Horse Association.

Woodin left and returned to Tucson several times, graduating from high school in California, getting a bachelor’s in zoology at the University of Arizona and a master’s in zoology at the University of ! California, Berkeley.

! In pursuit of his master’s degree, in 1950, he identified a kingsnake species in the Huachuca Mountains, where he and his first wife, the former Ann Snow, were camped out. The species was later named after him: lampropeltis pyromelana woodini .

He started as a volunteer for the Desert Museum before it opened, and later became a staff zoologist and deputy director until taking over as director in December 1954. The museum was in a financial crisis, with benefactor Pack having pulled back his support by then. The staff had been cut to five and the museum budget was $60,000. (Its current staff and annual budget are 140 and about $9.5 million, respectively.) Woodin embarked on a period of expansion, and introduced the museum’s first admission charge: 50 cents for adults and a quarter for kids.

Under him, the m! useum built an underground tunnel where visitors could see bat-roost systems, bats nesting in caves, foxes snoozing in dens and snakes nesting, wrote the Saturday Evening Post in a 1962 profile of Woodin titled, ‘People on the way up.’ A museum exhibit called Water Street made an early pitch for saving water in the desert.

Also came exhibits and enclosures for amphibians, black bears, birds, tortoises, otters, coatimundis and other small animals, an aquarium room, artificial habitats using rocks to look like natural habitats, and a vampire bat cave. The museum’s renowned Desert Ark TV program also began under Woodin.

Woodin was always willing to allow his staff to try new things and ideas, encouraging creative people to design exhibits that were copied around the country and around the world, said Peggy Larson, the museum’s archivist.

He was called ‘the most promising young naturalist in the United States’ by Roy Chapman Andrews, a former American Museum of Natural History director, an Asian explorer and an early Desert Museum trustee, the Saturday Evening Post article reported.

But Woodin gave the job up in 1971 on deciding ’17 years was enough,’ said his son Peter. He wanted to concentrate on another lifelong passion, small arms ammunition used by the U.S. military. He spent most of the rest of his life writing a three-volume history on the subject, publishing the final volume in 2015. He also compiled ‘one of the great collections of ammunition in the world,’ said a second son, Hugh Woodin.

He kept the collection at his Woodin Laboratory, built in 1973 and now a 3,000-square-foot underground vault, built of masonry block and reinforced concrete slabs. The laboratory, tracing the ev! olution of small arms ammunition, contains many thousands of specimens, many of which are the only ones of their kind, says a 2010 article about the laboratory in the publication Small Arms Review. The laboratory is a private, nonprofit foundation and educational institute. The family has kept its location private for security reasons.

In an interview in the Small Arms Review, Woodin credited his stepfather for his interest in guns. He said Haskell introduced him to shooting at an early age and ‘instilled in me a real respect for guns and gun safety.

‘To this day, I get the creeps when someone points anything at me, even a finger,’ Woodin told the interviewer.

He also compulsively collected snakes for most of his life, at one time simultaneously owning a green rock rattlesnake and two large kingsnakes. He often prowled aroun! d the desert at night with a flashlight, stick and burlap bag, searchin! g for specimens, and kept bobcats at his home as a hobby. Woodin used to keep his favorite snakes inside sacks in the living room until his wife Ann domesticated him, the Saturday Evening Post article said.

‘It was a terrible sight when the sacks wandered around at night,’ said Ann Woodin, who also forbade her four sons from bringing snakes to the dinner table. Ann, an author, naturalist and community volunteer and activist, died in 2017 at age 90.

Woodin is survived by four sons: Peter, a lawyer and fulltime mediator in New York City; Hugh, a professor of philosophy and mathematics at Harvard University; John, a contractor in Tucson; and Michael, a painter and photographer in Tucson. He also had eight grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Contact reporter Tony Davis at tdavis! @tucson.com or 806-7746