Scouts (dis)honor

 

ARIZONA

After Henry Jackson bought the X9 ranch just a few miles southeast of land-hungry Tucson in 1955, he subdivided and lightly developed much of it. But during the '70s and '80s, Jackson also deeded 420 acres to the Boy Scouts of America. At the base of the Rincon Mountains, the land is bordered by a wilderness on one edge and Saguaro National Park on another.

Now, the Boy Scouts' local Catalina Council wants to sell out.

"Everything he did on the X9 was to preserve the foothills of the Rincons," says Jackson's daughter, Anne Miller, who's fighting the council's development plans. When he turned over the land to the Scouts, she says, Jackson included explicit restrictions against development.

But the Catalina Council has other camps in the area, and now it needs the money more than it needs the land, says Ken Moeller, the council's attorney.

"We've approached The Nature Conservancy, the national forest, the Trust for Public Lands, who said it's not a critical habitat," says Moeller. "It's pretty desert, but not something these organizations are saying they need to preserve from development."

With only developers interested, the Catalina Council has tried making an end run around the development restrictions. It struck an agreement with the board of the X9 Homeowners Association for a modest development plan, but the proposal was defeated by association members in 2000. The case has been in and out of court since then; a new trial is expected later this year.

Miller says that the ongoing legal action has cost her family over $200,000. "If he had wanted them to have money," she says, "he would have given it to them."

Copyright © 2002 HCN and Karen Mockler