Arizona, unpredictable as always


This month, all U.S. citizens have cause to celebrate: Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed Senate bill 1332, which authorized the state to seize federal lands within its borders. Of course the whole notion was nuts, not to mention unconstitutional – although this didn’t prevent Utah governor Herbert from signing a similar bill awhile back – and Brewer deserves some credit for putting a stop to it.

By now, you may be thinking, that Jan Brewer? The Jan Brewer of the deer-in-the-headlights debate freeze-up and the finger-wagging airport tantrum directed at President Obama? Yes, that one. Here in Arizona, we’ve been trying to figure her out for awhile now, with little success. She’s signed some highly controversial pieces of legislation, such as the infamous anti-immigration SB 1070, and vetoed others, such as recent “bring-your-gun-anywhere-you-please” attempts.


Likewise, her record on public lands is a head scratcher. The federal government isn’t always the best manager of its (our) land holdings, but they’re certainly preferable to some of the schemers and incompetents who run this state, as I noted in this blog last month, and the recent veto proves that Brewer can sometimes have a cool head when she needs to. Unfortunately, the emphasis here is on “sometimes.”

Arizona’s state parks, as well as those in other Western states, have had a rough time during the recession. All had their budgets slashed severely, and many were forced to close for months. Those that reopened, such as Oracle State Park near Tucson, were often able to do so only because of the stepped-up efforts of volunteers and local communities, not because their funds were restored. In such difficult circumstances, the state Parks Director becomes increasingly important; such an official needs the ability to advocate for the parks while being an innovative and careful steward of the limited resources provided for them. Recently, this post became vacant, and which candidate did the Parks Board recommend to Brewer? Was it the most qualified applicant, who in this case had served as director of Tennessee’s parks? Sadly, no; the new director is Bryan Martyn, a former military pilot and county supervisor with close ties to the copper mining lobby, according to a recent article in the Arizona Republic. Brewer has publicly expressed support for a proposed mine near Florence; Martyn worked for a Florence-area pro-mine advocacy group that was funded by the mining company Curis, which also employs Brewer’s close friend and advisor, lobbyist Chuck Coughlin. The cozy relationships don’t stop there; Coughlin helped Martyn’s wife Susan obtain a receptionist job in the governor’s office.

So there you have it: When it comes to public lands, we have Brewer the sensible one day, Brewer the crass crony-promoter the next. Either way, Arizona’s about due for another humiliating meme splashed across YouTube or The Colbert Report. Will Brewer be the subject yet again? I hope not, but with her, you just never know.

Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

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