Saturday, April 6, 2013

PL93-620 R5. Jan-May 1974: Lobbying The Sierra Club: After A Little Tempest, The Teapot Goes Cold

Back to the events of early 1974:

In a January visit to Washington, McComb talked with Udall about flying over the area, and re-stated how adamant the Club was on keeping the Havasupai status quo. He had to repeat this to involved Committee staffers, too, who were "surprised" at what they had heard about the pro-Havasupai Chapter members. 

In Tucson, as I "offered information" to some of the uncommitted Chapter officers, others were trying to find a middle ground, i.e., using Canyon de Chelly National Monument as a model for mixed administration. However, McComb told Garcia that he did not want to be involved in the McIver-called meeting: "I am opposed to any Havasupai change." There was talk about a second Club-Havasupai get-together in Tucson. Another chapter member had visited Supai and came back bearing dire news about Havasupai conditions, which he would carry to the special meeting, where he hoped to bury any idea of buying private land and get the Executive Committee to support Havasupai land transfer. McComb argued with him, and as well tried to convince the two main Havasupai backers. Garcia worried to me about the extent of McComb's lobbying.

Meanwhile, I checked with the chief state water official, wondering if there was an Arizona interest here, but he was not worried about any tribal development. McComb reported that his checking found no weakening in the administration position on the Havasupai. Moreover, a committee staffer working on Indian affairs said he had tried to get a friendly Representative to propose a 169 kac transfer, but was told "no" -- it was an awful lot of land. The staffer said anyway, the Club was not the main obstacle, and wondered, with a smile, if Steiger was pushing the transfer to kill the whole bill. He also told John he had not seen any Havasupai lobbying since November. 

The special meeting of the Chapter executive committee on 26 Jan to consider three offered resolutions was open "to all … members" (i.e., not me). There might be a time limit on speakers, who were to be polite and orderly in "an atmosphere of compromise and good fellowship." 

A statement circulated by one member beforehand was bald: The Club should recognize the legality and validity of Havasupai claims.  "We must accept the fact that Havasupai attachment to ancestral lands is … real and valid." Another Club member had visited Supai to gather information for the meeting. 

I have no formal record of the meeting itself, but Margot Garcia told me that it went pretty smoothly and was logically done, item by item. There were maybe 3-5 pro-Havasupai, and each had a pet concern. The question of the claims' legality impressed some people. She said the resolution was a compromise that started out pro-Havasupai, but then put NPS land on the bottom of the list for possible transfer and also called for economic alternatives.
In detail, the resolution read that the chapter executive committee recognized the Havasupai need for more land and supported "their desire for the effective use of additional lands." It favored the addition "from any source". "However, this land should be from the National Park Service lands only if USFS, BLM, state or private lands are not available or sufficient." Any NPS land should come from "the adjacent Plateau or upper Cataract Canyon." An economic and land use study should be made. Furthermore, there was support for the Havasupai "ancient view of the relationship between man and nature and in their recognition of the need to love the land, use it wisely, and preserve it for the sustenance of future generations." To which Margot, in the handwritten copy she gave me, appended, "Amen!"

A Havasupai report commented that the meeting lasted four hours, and that after being the lone dissenting vote on the final negotiated resolution, Margot Garcia resigned as chair. The Canyon Shadows headlined: "Sierra Club Votes To Support The Havasupai", but the text said the action was weaker than desired. Still, saying "sufficient" land should be transferred was "all-important". "There is still tough going ahead", since the national Club Board may refuse to go along. Club members were urged to write the Board, and say the Havasupai take better care of the land than NPS has. And write congressional members, since this support could change "everything overnight with the House of Representatives." Another "big victory". (And the apogee of this lobbying campaign.)

I am giving nothing away when I say that neither John McComb nor I were affected in our determination to press on with Park legislation that did not include Havasupai land repatriation. Many felt that there were two valid positions that had come into unfortunate conflict, and these positions needed to be articulated and then resolved in the political process. My further view was that this flank attack on the Park System's defenders was near-illegitimate. Defending the Canyon, the Park, and NPS were valid and valuable positions to take and argue for, and that is what the Sierra Club had done and should continue to do, be a voice for NPS-type preservation. There were other organizations that supported the Havasupai interest just as legitimately (like the Association for American Indian Affairs, as would soon become apparent). Let the Club be the Club and the AAIA follow out its beliefs. Trying to cross-dress the Sierra Club as the AAIA was, I believed, to distort the American political process of advocates presenting and pushing their views and the office-holders doing their duty of deciding (well, thats a little simply put, but…).  And although we had to deal with misunderstanding in Washington about the executive committee action, the Havasupai had not yet done the bigger job of putting together an effective lobbying effort; that was still a couple of months off.
 Indeed, from another perspective, the Havasupai effort at  lobbying the Club was a diversion of their resources which, had they been spent lobbying Congressman Udall from November, might have put them in January where they would not be --and still opposed by the Club-- until mid-summer. However, we were not so Machiavellian as to have deliberately tempted them to waste time & effort chasing the chimera of Club support.

A few days later, McComb was told that Goldwater, Udall & Steiger had talked, and the Havasupai situation was OK as is. He also checked with national Club officials, who spoke of killing the Chapter's resolution "bureaucratically". Alderson reported that Hirst had called him to say the Club was changing its position, and Friends of the Earth should, too. 

Now it is necessary to do some splitting of the story lines. I want to finish telling here what happened to that Havasupai effort to lobby (subvert?) the Sierra Club. In the next entry I will go back and pick up our effort to expand the Park and its protection, which reached its successful apogee in the House Parks Subcommitte action on 4 March. Then it will be necessary to come back to the Havasupai and tell how, with the support of the AAIA, their floundering cause was put into effective hands, and they started making gains in April and May, during which time the story lines integrate into the main strand of the successful Havasupai effort to win in the full House Interior Committee in August.

Havasupai efforts were dealt with in many of the Club's arenas: the Arizona chapter may have been done, but the Colorado chapter got stirred up. The Southwest Regional Conservation Committee considered the matter as did the national Native American Issues Committee, both from the Havasupai point-of-view. Other staff members reinforced McComb's firm stand, as exemplified by the Washington representative B. Evans and Executive Director M. McCloskey. Finally, the National Board of Directors took "decisive" action in support of the Park at almost the same moment that President Nixon reversed the administration position and came out for Havasupai land repatriation. 

Markers from the paper trail start with the letter being sent out from the national office to anyone writing of their concern about the Club's position. My copy from 25 Mar includes a note from McCloskey to McComb that it is being sent to those "who complain" and he "hopes it is alright." Reflecting the impact of tv's Sixty Minutes, the letter begins by saying the program did not "fairly present" the Club's position. The Club did not participate because it was clear the producers "had conceived of a program in terms of an antagonism…Frankly, we thought we were being set up as the villains". (McComb, as he told  me, understood when contacted back in 1973 that this was a pro-Havasupai piece.) The facts: the Club sympathizes with the Havasupai. Much bad has been done them. Speaking of most tribal councils, there are development-minded and traditionalists factions. We, the Club, have much in common with the latter. However, we have seen major commercial logging, stripmining, overgrazing; a sad pattern of environmental destruction for too many Americans.
  For the Havasupai, we have supported transfer of 200 kac out of the Boquillas ranch of "prime grazing land" in their historic-use area. We oppose transfer of Park lands, because the restrictions on commercialization are stronger. We do not propose reducing Havasupai economic support opportunities within the Park. 
  The Indian Claims Commission may have been inadequate, but the unfairness is basic: "their lands have almost all been taken over by European settlers, and there is no fair way to right that wrong anymore." The Park System should not be the prime target for righting that wrong. Instead, focus on high economic potential lands. "Unfortunately", the Havasupai want to use Park legislation to overcome "their unhappiness" with the I.C.C., which we feel is most unfair. Legislation now being considered provides 100 kac of federal land for transfer for grazing and residences, compatible with Park purposes, and we support this.

At the same time, the Club's "native American" committee "deplored the plight of the Indian", and proposed the transfer of 251 kac of Park and Forest now under Havasupai use permit. There should be reasonable environmental restraints. This would be an opportunity "to reach out in a cooperative spirit to help a people survive". This was to be presented to the Board at its 5 May meeting. At the same time, the Colorado chapter, stirred up by Havasupai friend F.Tikalsky, considered the matter in a "no expletives deleted" meeting, which ended up with a recommendation for the Board to re-examine its position. Tikalsky, who was frequently with the Havasupai, was reportedly hard on "the Club" (meaning McComb) for not going to Supai. 

Meanwhile, as a result of the Havasupai lobbying in Washington, gaining momentum in April, we heard from Udall that he had been told that the Club was now in favor of a Havasupai land grant. To end that confusion, on 26 Apr McCloskey telegrammed Udall confirming the Club's position, reporting it "not changed at all", and "efforts to get our Board of Directors to reconsider the question at its next meeting on May 5th appear to have collapsed." The "native American" chair asked that the question be withdrawn from the agenda. 

The formal end came with a Board resolution on 5 May saying it reaffirmed the policy of Feb 1968 that all public lands of Park quality in the Grand Canyon region be included within the Grand Canyon National Park. The Board supported buying private ranch land, and allowing continued Havasupai use of the Park and Forest, consistent with Park values. "Retention of these lands with the Grand Canyon National Park is essential to protect the integrity of the National Park System and the many Park values found on these Park lands."

However, according to a report by Club DC rep Evans, "Indian reps" were still misinforming people, e.g., telling Senator Jackson, Interior Committee chair, about the chapter action, which "perturbed" him. Evans set things straight verbally and in a follow-up letter, that the Board was firmly opposed to this transfer. In writing Jackson, Evans spoke of his leadership of the committee that resulted in the Senate passing "an excellent bill". Now there are pressures mounting in the House to transfer land. We sympathize, etc. but the lands belong in the Park. 

By that time, however, (Apr-May), the Havasupai were in more capable hands, and providing the solid results I will detail in a later post. It is time to return to our own, very satisfactory, work on developing a Grand Canyon-friendly bill with Congressman Udall and his capable staff.

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