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 or 602-444-8478 or on Twitter @charrisazrep.

AZGFD Presentation Posted Online

Source:  Arizona Game and Fish Department Press Release – October 20, 2018

The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) has posted a presentation on its website kicking off the 2nd phase of public input for establishing and maintaining a discretionary, dedicated funding source for public awareness and education. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission recently directed the Department to analyze ideas submitted by the public: the addition of a big game bonus point option, and the potential to expand revenue sources from non-traditional customers.The public is invited to view the online presentation, then submit comments specific only to the proposals via email ( throughout a public input period that ends Nov. 18.

AZGFD is also seeking feedback to specific questions at Answer Questions HERE regarding a big game bonus point option. This feedback will provide the Department with a preliminary glimpse of public opinion on the topic. Additional analyses and public vetting will be needed to fully assess the potential for this option. The presentation and online feedback form also are posted at

AZGFD will present feedback on the potential options for the funding source to the Commission at its public meeting Dec. 7 in Phoenix.

Arizona Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards ‘reflect visionary efforts’

Source:  Queen Creek Independent – October 8, 2018

The Northern Arizona Forest Fund took the top honor Saturday night in the Environmental Excellence Awards presented by SRP at the Westin Kierland Resort. Judges also named the Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge as winner of the Governor’s Award for Arizona’s Future, and two new categories – Sustainability Champion and Waste Reduction – made their debuts. Northern Arizona national forests provide the majority of water to the Salt and Verde rivers and eventually into the homes of millions of Phoenix-area residents.

“But the health of the forests and watersheds is threatened,” according to a release announcing the winners. “The Northern Arizona Forest Fund was created to address these declining forest health conditions. To date, the Northern Arizona Forest Fund has completed over 10,000 acres of projects, reducing severe fire risk by about 25 percent.”

The Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge overturned a long-standing legal prohibition against potable water reuse. It also used craft beer to educate the public about the benefits of the “toilet to tap” revolution, the release stated. The team took to festivals, conferences, parades and expos to get their message out, which resulted in changing a law.

Arizona Forward celebrated the 38th anniversary of its signature awards program, drawing more than 500 social influencers and innovators representing public and private sector interests.

“I’ve attended the Environmental Excellence Awards as an Arizona Forward member for 20 years, and this year’s finalists show how far sustainability has come during that time,” stated Lori Singleton, Arizona Forward president and CEO. “Every year, we see a wider range of entries that make our communities healthier, more vibrant and more resilient.”

Finalist projects were submitted by Maricopa and Pima counties, as well as Chandler, Flagstaff, Glendale, Peoria, Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Tolleson and Tucson. “The results of this year’s competition reflect visionary efforts in both the public and private sector,” said lead judge John Flicker, who serves as president of Prescott College. “The judging panel had the diverse knowledge to evaluate how these projects will impact their communities well into the future. It was an honor for us to be part of this process.”

In addition to the Northern Arizona Forest Fund and the Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge, Crescordia winners include:

WURTH HOUSE (Kimber Lanning) – Buildings and Structures (Civic and Historic Preservation)

Local First Arizona founder Kimber Lanning saved a bungalow that was slated for demolition and gave it new life as the Local First Arizona headquarters. The process took more than three years to complete. Today, more than 30,000 people see the restored bungalow during monthly First Friday events.

OCOTILLO RESTAURANT (TRUEFORM landscape architecture studio) – Buildings and Structures (Commercial and Institutional)

The Ocotillo Restaurant features desert-adaptive materials and water-harvesting elements that blend into the Southwest. Desert palo brea and mesquite trees provide shade, while the restaurant’s namesake ocotillo plants are featured at key locations. A sunken lawn provides a gathering place and harvests water.

NORTHERN ARIZONA POLLINATOR HABITAT INITIATIVE (Green NAU)– Site Development and Landscape (Landscape and Preserves)

The Northern Arizona Pollinator Habitat Initiative promotes the creation, protection and registration of pollinator habitat across Northern Arizona, while highlighting the important role pollinators fulfill in the global food supply. The effort increased local pollinator garden registration tenfold in its first year.

SPACES OF OPPORTUNITY (Orcutt Winslow) – Healthy Communities (Sustainable Communities)

Spaces of Opportunity addresses community connections, food deserts and social justice and allows residents to learn about science, technology, engineering and agriculture. The incubator farm encompasses 3,000 square feet; kale, mustard greens and beets have sprouted this year.

MESA RIO SALADO – STADIUM CONNECTOR PATHWAY (City of Mesa – Engineering Department) – Healthy Communities (Multimodal Transportation and Connectivity)

The Mesa Rio Salado-Stadium Connector Pathway filled a 3.5-mile gap in the Valley’s network of shared-use paths along the Salt River, Crosscut Canal and adjacent neighborhoods. Community partners include the Chicago Cubs, Oakland A’s, Riverview Development, SRP, Arizona Department of Transportation, Flood Control District of Maricopa County, United States Army Corps of Engineers, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the cities of Mesa and Tempe.

SOUTH MOUNTAIN PARK AND PRESERVE TRAILS MASTER PLAN (City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department) – Healthy Communities (Public Policy/Plans)

The South Mountain Park and Preserve Plan will help the desert mountain preserve address the challenges of increasing popularity so future generations can connect with the desert. The plan identifies 51 miles of existing designated trails to be protected or improved and adopts 38 miles of existing non-designated trails into the designated trail system.

(Submitted photo)


U-Haul designated a portion of customer contributions in 2017-18 to the National Forest Foundation to support its Prescott Aspen Restoration Project in the Prescott National Forest. One-hundred-fifty acres across two aspen stands were restored, protecting a watershed.

PEORIA POLICE PATROL SERVICES BUILDING (Energy Systems Design, Inc.) – Energy and Technology Innovation

The city of Peoria’s new Patrol Services Building provides an immediate return on investment through ongoing water and energy reduction while providing a comfortable work environment for Peoria’s officers and staff. The building’s energy costs will be 41 percent less than a typical building, and it is tracking LEED Gold certification.

GLENDALE DESERT FOOD FOREST (City of Glendale Water Services Department) – Environmental Education and Communication

Part regenerative landscape and part outdoor classroom, the Glendale Desert Food Forest connects residents to the Sonoran Desert’s array of water-wise edible plants. It includes more than 100 edible plants and involves partners such as the Glendale Public Library, Linking Edible Arizona Forests Network, Maricopa County Master Gardener program and Trees Matter.

GREG STANTON (Greg Stanton Supporters) – Sustainability Champion (Individuals)

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton worked to establish Phoenix as an oasis of pragmatic, economically beneficial environmentalism. He asked Phoenix voters to approve a tax increase to benefit mass transit while running for his own re-election, while also converting 100,000 Phoenix streetlights to efficient LED bulbs. Mr. Stanton was also instrumental in developing public-private circular economy partnership through ASU to raise landfill diversion to 30 percent.




Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge

Submitted by: Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department


RISN Incubator – A partnership between the City of Phoenix and ASU

Submitted by: ASU Rob and Melanie Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiative


Salt and Verde Alliance

Submitted by: The Nature Conservancy




LEED Gold Tolleson Fire Station + Administration Building

Submitted by: LEA-Architects, LLC


Historic Preservation


Wurth House

Submitted by: Kimber Lanning


South Mountain Park and Preserve Big Ramada

Submitted by: City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department


Commercial & Institutional


Ocotillo Restaurant

Submitted by: TRUEFORM landscape architecture studio


Arizona State University – Biodesign Institute C

Submitted by: McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.



Northern Arizona Pollinator Habitat Initiative

Submitted by: Green NAU


Tohono Chul Park Master Plan

Submitted by: John Douglas Architects


Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel

Submitted by: TRUEFORM landscape architecture studio


Sustainable Communities


Spaces of Opportunity

Submitted by: Orcutt Winslow


Downtown Chandler Infrastructure Improvements: Commonwealth Avenue and Dakota Street Extension

Submitted by: Achen-Gardner Constructions, LLC


Multimodal Transportation and Connectivity


Mesa Rio Salado – Stadium Connector Pathway

Submitted by: City of Mesa – Engineering Department


Tempe Bike Share Program

Submitted by: City of Tempe


Public Policy/Plans


South Mountain Park and Preserve Trail Master Plan

Submitted by: City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation


Sustainable Workplaces


Orcutt Winslow Office

Submitted by: Orcutt Winslow


CBRE Phoenix Workplace 360

Submitted by: Gensler


Parks and Trails


U-Haul – The Conservation Fund (TCF): Upper Granite Creek Aspen Restoration Project

Submitted by: U-Haul International


Pioneer Park

Submitted by: Dig Studio, Inc.



Peoria Police Patrol Services Building

Submitted by: Energy Systems Design, Inc.



El Paso Greenway Project

Submitted by: Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department



(Submitted photo)

Glendale Desert Food Forest

Submitted by: City of Glendale Water Services Department


“Up in the Air” an Air Pollution Education Program

Submitted by: Maricopa County Air Quality Department


Master Recycler Program

Submitted by: City of Flagstaff Sustainability Section


Organizations and Projects


Northern Arizona Forest Fund

Submitted by: National Forest Foundation


Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge

Submitted by: Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department




Greg Stanton, Sustainability Champion

Submitted by: Greg Stanton Supporters


Bill Auberle

Submitted by: Pinyon Environmental, Audubon Arizona, Northern Arizona University


U-Haul Sustainability Champion: Alexia Bednarz

Submitted by: U-Haul International


Tim Thomure, Director, Tucson Water

Submitted by: Tucson Water



Waste Management Phoenix Open

Submitted by: Waste Management of Arizona


Global Water Resources – Total Water Management

Submitted by: Global Water Resources


Barley to Beer: Saving the Verde River

Submitted by: The Nature Conservancy (TNC)


Northern Arizona Forest Fund

Submitted by: National Forest Foundation

Land and Water Conservation Fund Lauded for benefiting recreation, criticized for land acquisition

Source:  ASU Now by Mary Beth Faller, September 2018

The patio of the clubhouse at Encanto Park in Phoenix was an oasis of shade on a hot, sunny day earlier this week. There, Arizona State University Professor Dale Larsen described how a federal funding program has given millions of dollars to the city to create hiking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas — and shady spots.

That 54-year-old program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, is set to expire Sept. 30. Over five decades, Arizona has received more than $230 million from the fund, which it has passed on to municipalities for projects including South Mountain Park and Goodyear Community Park, to state parks including Lost Dutchman and Slide Rock, and even to the Arizona Board of Regents for a park at the ASU West Campus.

The fund gave a total of $100 million to all 50 states this year, including $2.1 million to Arizona.

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

The money does not come from taxpayers, but from fees paid by energy companies that extract oil and natural gas along the Gulf Coast, according to Larsen, a professor of practice in the School of Community and Development. He was assistant director and then director of Phoenix’s Parks and Recreation Department for 27 years, retiring in 2010.

“That bipartisan legislation was an innovative way to share those funds all over the country in parks, conservation areas and wildlife areas as sort of an environment tradeoff,” he said.The fund divides the revenue into federal and state portions according to a formula that changes frequently, but for many years it was 60 percent federal and 40 percent state.

“Phoenix and other municipalities benefit from the state side,” he said. “The rest would go to federal agencies for purposes primarily of acquiring and expanding their federal property footprint, primarily in Western states. So the rub, over the years, has been from Western state legislators who think the LWCF has been used as a land grab for federal properties to be expanded, which would then preclude the opportunity for mining, for grazing or for hunting and fishing.”

The National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management use the fund to acquire more land. The conservative Heritage Foundation supports allowing the fund to expire, not only because the organization opposes expansion of federal lands but also because federal money is going to support local projects that should be funded in other ways.

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, blocked reauthorization of the LWCF in 2015 because he believed too much of the money went to buy land in the West. However, this year, Bishop co-sponsored the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, with Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., to permanently restore the fund and also allocate money toward the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Parks Service.

Larsen said that the program has been frozen and temporarily extended a few times, but never been allowed to expire. The city of Phoenix has received more than $10 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund since it began. Larsen teaches a class at ASU called “creating community,” and he tells his students that parks not only provide recreational and environmental benefits but they also have an economic impact.

“Parks, if they’re managed properly, tend to increase the property values of the neighborhood they’re located in,” he said. But a poorly maintained park, with trash and graffiti, can lower property values. “In Phoenix, what is the most treasured commodity? Shade,” he said.“The LWCF provides shade development opportunities so people can enjoy those parks.”