Agency condemns cabin as a teardown

  • Prescott College students at the Tonto National Forest cabin

    Prescott College
 

Many visitors call a 63-year-old cabin in the Tonto National Forest, Ariz., a "half-acre garden of Eden." The Grand Canyon Trust says it's "a historical, aesthetical and botanical treasure."

Yet the Forest Service has decided to tear down the cabin within six months. The agency made the decision despite a spirited effort by the private, liberal-arts Prescott College to save the site. The college owns the cabin and leases the surrounding half-acre orchard from the Forest Service.

In 1982, the college signed a 10-year lease which included the stipulation that any buildings remaining on the property after December 1993 would be removed. Joel Hiller, acting president of the college and dean at the time, signed that agreement. He says he anticipated no problems renewing the lease. He was wrong.

Last year, Forest Service officials said renewal of the lease was inconsistent with national policy and that they wanted to build a trailhead where the cabin stands. Stunned by the turndown, the college asked elected officials and the public for support. The Forest Service backed off, and agreed to issue the college a one-year, special-use permit while reviewing alternatives.

Now the year is up, and in a six-page letter to Prescott College President Hiller Dec. 9, Tonto Supervisor Charles Bazan outlined the reasons why he denied the school's request for a new 10-year lease.

Bazan said that the cabin is dilapidated and lacks historical significance; that few Prescott College students visit the site, and those that do could easily use a nearby facility run by Arizona State University; that water currently used to water the orchard and flowering shrubs should be used for native species; and that the forest has a policy of phasing out isolated cabins. The letter did not mention the need for a new trailhead.

Perhaps the person most distressed by the Forest Service denial is Richard Landis, the caretaker of the cabin and orchard for the last quarter of a century. Landis spearheaded a letter-writing campaign for the college that generated some 1,000 letters to the agency over the last year.

"It's unbelievable that the Forest Service would target this half-acre out of a 3 million-acre forest," says Landis. "This is a beautiful and unique example of man and nature working in harmony. Why would they want to destroy it?"

Although the Forest Service says the decision is not appealable, Landis says he and the Prescott College officials are looking into any avenues of recourse they might have left.

Forest Service spokeswoman Joyce Hassell says she sympathizes with Landis. "He has a deep emotional attachment to this place that is hard to quantify," she says. "But this particular piece of land is on the national forest and we have a responsibility to serve the broader public."

Just days following the decision to deny Prescott College's permit, Tonto Forest officials released a plan calling for a new trailhead at a site adjacent to the cabin. For more information, contact the Tonto National Forest, 2324 E. McDowell Road, P.O. Box 5348, Phoenix, AZ 85010 (602/225-5200).

The writer is a former HCN intern. Paul Larmer contributed to this report.

High Country News Classifieds
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    Seeking qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating, implementing and managing land conservation activities,...
  • REGIONAL TRAIL STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with trail maintenance and volunteer engagement...
  • TRAIL CREW MEMBER
    Position Title: Trail Crew Member Position Type: 6 month seasonal position, April 17-October 15, 2023 Location: Field-based; The RFOV office is in Carbondale, CO, and...
  • CEO BUFFALO NATIONS GRASSLANDS ALLIANCE
    Chief Executive Officer, Remote Exempt position for Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance is responsible for the planning and organization of BNGA's day-to-day operations
  • IDAHO DIRECTOR - WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT
    Western Watersheds Project seeks an Idaho Director to continue and expand upon WWP's campaign to protect and restore public lands and wildlife in Idaho, with...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Development Director to join our team in supporting and furthering our mission. This position will create...
  • DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Operations Director to join our team. This position will provide critical organizational and systems support to...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is seeking a leader to join our dynamic team in the long-term protection of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). We...
  • GRASSLAND RESEARCH COORDINATOR
    The Grassland Research Coordinator is a cooperative position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that performs and participates in and coordinates data collection for...
  • HYDROELECTRIC PLANT
    1.3 MW FERC licensed hydroelectric station near Taylorsville CA. Property is 184 deeded acres surrounded by National Forrest.
  • "PROFILES IN COURAGE: STANDING AGAINST THE WYOMING WIND"
    13 stories of extraordinary courage including HCN founder Tom Bell, PRBRC director Lynn Dickey, Liz Cheney, People of Heart Mountain, the Wind River Indian Reservation...
  • GRANT WRITER
    JOB DESCRIPTION: This Work involves the responsibility of conducting research in the procurement of Federal, State, County, and private grant funding. Additional responsibilities include identifying...
  • MATADOR RANCH STEWARD
    The Matador Ranch Steward conducts annual stewardship projects at the Matador Ranch Preserve and occasionally supports stewardship projects elsewhere in Montana's Northern Great Plains. The...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a motivated individual to help build public support for key strategic initiatives in northern Idaho through public outreach and...
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Foundation seeks a steward/educator to lead backcountry volunteer projects and community outreach. FT $36k-$40k, competitive time off. ALSO HIRING OPERATIONS MANAGER. More...
  • ASSISTANT RANCH OPERATIONS MANAGER
    WANTED: ASSISTANT RANCH OPERATIONS MANAGER ~ UTAH/COLORADO border ~ Looking to immediately hire an experienced and clean hardworker to join us on a beautiful, very...
  • ASPIRE COLORADO SUSTAINABLE BODY AND HOME CARE PRODUCTS
    Go Bulk! Go Natural! Our products are better for you and better for the environment. Say no to single-use plastic. Made in U.S.A., by a...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in the natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau, with lodge and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.