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Locals drive Arizona campaign

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I am responding to Felice Pace’s letter, in which he portrays the Arizona campaign to designate wilderness in the Tumacacori Highlands as the brainchild of the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the grassroots activists as Pew’s pawns (HCN, 6/21/04: What grassroots wilderness movement?). That perception couldn’t be further from the truth.

The decision to promote the Tumacacori Highlands was made by the board and staff of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition along with many other local conservationists, staff at Congressman Raúl Grijalva’s office and the congressman himself — without any communications or advice from Pew.

The Tumacacori Highlands certainly wasn’t chosen because it is non-controversial; we find ourselves constantly defending our rock-solid proposal from the typical misinformed, yet vocal, opposition to wilderness. This area was chosen because it is the largest unprotected U.S. Forest Service roadless area in Arizona, with tremendous recreational and ecological values.

We are advocating for the additional designation of about 7 million acres of wilderness, but when it comes to actually legislating new wilderness, we have chosen to expend our financial and emotional resources only where we perceive the opportunity to gain local political support.

Arizona activists have remained in control of this campaign, and we have never felt any pressure from Pew to move away from where our local knowledge and instincts direct us.

Don Hoffman
Alpine, Arizona

The writer is director of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition.

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