Saturday, May 17, 2014

PL93-620 W. Aug-Sep 1974: A Re-focussed Battle; Attacking the Precedent

Udall had demonstrated his leadership that had led to a bill, complete with some compromises, that could command a majority in the committee against the opposition of the forces determined that federal land should not be transferred to the Havasupai (or any tribe, by implication). There had been an even larger majority for the other changes he had made in the Senate-passed version.

The next necessary accomplishment, not in any way automatic, would be to bring this bill to the floor of the full House of Representatives, maintaining the bill's content while building another majority for it. There were technical steps: The Committee had lacked a quorum on the 31st, and so had to reconvene for the vote. The Committee Report & minority views had to be written, and the package presented to the Rules Committee, the body that determined what procedures were to be followed during floor debate & voting. The day for floor action could then be scheduled -- in this bill's history, no mean feat given how often it had been delayed and postponed.  These preliminary steps to full House action took up August, September, and half of October.

The Committee Does Act

The 1 Aug Phoenix newspaper headlined the anti-dam vote and its illegality due to lack of a quorum. In the discussion, Udall suggested an anti-dam pledge was given in exchange for the CAP thermal electric plant. Steiger emphasized the dam's economic benefits. The article went on, showing Steiger and Udall had "stood together" for the Havasupai transfer, Udall emphasized the environmental controls on the land transferred, against Rep. Foley's fears of a precedent leading to "the dismemberment of all public lands".
The AP report, in the Tucson paper, led off with the Havasupai debate -- Udall pressing the case of their "desperate need for an adequate land base"; Foley warning of motels and the Canyon's dismemberment. As for the dam, Steiger's claims were answered by Udall's summary: "We've gone beyond the era of building big dams".
In a constituent letter, Rep. Runnels also spoke of the desperate need of the Havasupai "trapped in an overcrowded village that no roads reach…", and cited the Udall restrictions against "hotels, resorts, dams, or factories". Others in the majority of 24 no doubt echoed these virtues of the cleverly constructed Udall compromise.
An article in an Albuquerque paper pointed to the disagreement between the two Washingtonians: Foley emphasizing the precedent, and Meeds the long-standing Havasupai land claim. 
The NWF's "Conservation Report" said that the precedent was "the prime focal point of controversy", and that the vote "overrode" the Parks Subcommittee action, as well as going beyond the Senate-passed study.
A New York Times report of 4 Aug from Supai summed up the issue as "the Havasupai want to return to the plateau". Conservationists were uneasy about opposing this poor tribe, but feared subversion by the proposed land transfer. Another prominent paper, The Washington Post, supported the committee action to "correct the old injustice done the Havasupais".

For a Sierra Club report, the headline was "Committee Votes to Give Away Grand Canyon Park Lands". Park values could be destroyed and a serious precedent established, according to Club Washington chief Brock Evans, bringing "a disaster of first rank for the national park system", turning over a chunk of "our most famous national park to private development interests, under the guise of giving it to an Indian tribe". Evans citied the previous Havasupai approval of dams and recreational developments. "A floor fight is certain there. We simply cannot let a precedent of such magnitude stand without the strongest possible counter effort". Evans also authored an answer to the Washington Post emphasizing the important parts of the Canyon being taken out of the Park and the deleterious effects on the Indian Claims Commission work.

[It is worth noting here that even before this vote, Evans, with very strong anti-Indian views, had been taking a more forceful role in opposing the land transfer leading up to the Committee vote. This would become more evident in the pre-floor skirmishing, and even at the end, right up to the moment the bill was signed by the President. Given how freely McComb & I had operated in the Senate and the earlier House stages, Evans' emergence as the anti-Havasupai voice of the Club signaled, not so much a change in Club position as a re-focus and a willingness to ignore non-Havasupai considerations.]

Evans -- the Club's-- views were echoed in McComb's newsletter of 6 Aug: "one very damaging amendment". Overall, the Park System gained little, thanks to the Havasupai deletion. The future of the Park and Forest system could be in jeopardy. The entire claims mechanism may be upset. He followed this up with a memo to particularly well-placed cooperators asking them to alert their membership: "I view … the transfer … with great alarm"; " even more alarming is the potential threat to all public lands". The transfer includes, not just plateau land, but "virtually the entire spectacular Havasu Canyon drainage". 

A minor skirmish on the Club's Southwest committee indicated that the pro-Havasupai side in the Club had not been completely quelled, just because there was no longer debate as to the position to be advocated.

While these public views were being slung about, I was still in DC. A chat with Seiberling found him eager and interested in continuing the fight. I consulted with Taylor and Foley -- the latter spoke of his displeasure over the small size of the anti-Havasupai vote -- it is never much fun being chastised by a congressmen. The vote with a quorum could only be symbolic.

Then, shifting arenas, I talked with Senate Interior staff chief Jerry Verkler, as strong against the transfer as anyone. He wanted to get a shopping list for a tougher amendment from me as quickly as possible. He wondered if there was any chance the bill could be stalled, killed, or just lost.
I had a long chat with Sterling Munro, Chairman Jackson's chief of staff--as always, friendly and non-committal, but I got some message across about a possible course of action on developing new amendments. He told me about a visit with a reporter from Time, who understood from the AAIA that the Havasupai could not do anything bad or the land would be taken away. In any case, it was clear that the Havasupai side was being ably presented. There was also some concern that conservationists statements were considered "wild". 
Steiger continued to shift around trying to find a way to get Udall to agree to something positive on the damsite so he might save face. Udall wouldnt.

Committee action took place again on 9 Aug, but still no quorum; final approval did not come until the 14th. Taylor declared he would support the bill on floor, but after stating his  disagreement with Udall over the Havasupai matter. Aided by a long-time dam lover, Hosmer of California, Steiger tried to end the moratorium on any dams, and according to Hunt's report to me, he was obnoxious about losing, arguing to exclude the damsite from the Park. The vote against the dam was 23-11.

There was a news report on radio on the bill's being reported, "doubling the size of the National Park". The defeat of the dam provision meant the door was slammed shut, according to a proponent. The Havasupai were given 185 kac, and Udall spoke of conservationist fear of an "open door" and our intention to oppose the bill. 
Marking Time While Gathering Forces

The shift in the center of political gravity from enlarging the Park to fighting off the Havasupai was evident in a 7 Aug meeting, "put together" by Brock Evans, of major environmental groups, "at Representative Foley's request". Attendees included Representatives Foley & Dellenback, with Evans, another Club lobbyist, and legislative directors/lobbyists from the Izaak Walton League, Audubon (2), N.Rec & Parks Assoc., NWF (2), Am Forestry Assoc, Friends of the Earth, Wilderness Society, Am Rivers Cons. Council, Fed. of Western Outdoor Clubs, and a Grand Canyon boatman, who prepared this issue summary:
the loss of national park quality land;
the land is wilderness and has no agricultural value;
the land has commercial tourism value, and such development is not prohibited;
the Havasupai have supported a tram and the dam;
it would be extremely difficult for the public to restrict exploitation of the transferred lands.
The Precedent:
  cash had been accepted;
  400 claims could be re-opened;
  100 more claims might not be settled;
  total of all claims is 57 million acres;
  the transfer is out of the Park System for economic reasons, for the first time.

 Evans, in a memo to McComb & McCloskey, reported that the discussion among these 17 "rambled a good deal" in the effort to "explore strategy" on  1. how to deal with a floor fight over the Havasupai claim, and 2. how to deal with the "certainty of increasing Indian claims" to Parks & Forests. 
NWF & Audubon "came out very strongly for going all out … to strike the Udall proposal, even if it meant going down in flames." They would educate their members, and turn on the troops. Evans had reservations, unless there could be something to offer that "would be palatable to vote for". The goal being to get enough votes "to go into conference with something respectable that Senator Jackson could then work on. 20 or 30 votes would not be much to work with. [Note: the assumption here was that the Senate side in a conference on the bill would want to put up a strong fight in favor of the Senate-passed study, something Verkler was even then dubious about.]
However, "the tenor of the meeting was strongly in favor of going all out". Foley was worried about Steiger's being able to amend any conservationist amendment that would lose even more. Evans insisted that getting a big anti-Havasupai vote was the goal. Foley & Dellenback said they would work on a possible amendment, but even if none was palatable, they "want us to start getting ready for a floor fight." 
Evans worried about resources to notify members, but was ready to do what was possible to educate them. "We are all convinced that we are in a ten-year war, of some sort, a war which began with Blue Lake, continued through the Native Claims, and now goes up to this."

[Question to ponder: That meeting was a clear marker of a different leadership and different issue emphasis. A broad grouping--that could never have agreed on the Grand Canyon Park provisions--was brought together to fight for the integrity of public land ownership, or if you will, against the Havasupai, their land transfer, and those who supported that move.
  When I received this memo, in Tucson, did I have any twinges about what was going to happen to our Grand Canyon provisions? Clearly, the view of Foley, Evans and the others was that there was one issue: the Havasupai transfer as the wedge leading to the re-opening of Indian claims to public lands. I have no memory of having worried about or contested this view, or even discussed it with McComb. Also, as I will discuss further on, at this time, hunter opposition was strengthening, and again, I have no memory of an effort to counter that during these months. Did we hope that our Park support was so solid that we could just concentrate on denying the Havasupai their transfer? Did we never even discuss how to keep what we had won, as balanced against the Precedent?]

Published items and private position papers continued to be put forth, as the Committee staff worked behind closed doors on the official report, which would not be ready until September, after the congressional recess. For instance, in mid-August, Audubon followed up with a news item on this, the first-time, transfer of Park and Forest for economic purposes. A precedent is set that could affect 57 million acres. A floor fight is anticipated.  

Then came a heavy-breathing article in the Kansas City Star highlighting "the most unspeakable squalor", "tubercular fathers", "filthy beds", "a people who casually ignore redemptive efforts", poverty grown "past the point of human dignity". Now, in an unprecedented grant of public lands, Congress may turn over ¼ of Grand Canyon National Park, leaving environmental groups "aghast". There is support all along the political spectrum, from Goldwater to Kennedy. Favorable House action is expected, and with bipartisan backing, a conference would do the same. Looking at the land "with a dispassionate eye", it is half pinyon-juniper, the rest arid grassland. Many dont see what good the land will do the Havasupai, and the Park Service & environmentalists have proposed looking at better land. Otherwise, the Havasupai, discovering the land is worthless for grazing, will press "to sell the land to developers"--resulting in condominiums and tacky tourist traps.The Park Service wants to protect the rim.  McComb asked, "What if a white entrepreneur offers the tribe $1 million for a Disneyland on the rim?", and he described "their favorite psychological ploy…they take you down the canyon, you see the tribe, you feel bad, and you want to do something." It is, the reporter writes, an effective ploy: at the top, mangy dogs, emaciated horses, trash, and horses being loaded with food being sent in as mail. Some houses are new; the rest area is as primitive as the utility arrangements. He presented a sympathetic portrait of Chairman Paya, who had crossed the country time and again to represent the Havasupai in DC. He may not understand all the complexities of the land dispute -- there are white lawyers for that -- but he knows his people and their problems (disease, alcohol, apathy, frustration reinforced by 500-foot canyon walls). Complaints are reported about the young men, unwilling to take up the reins of the packing & tourism work. They are more receptive to a cable car or jeep trail. However, additional land could work to alleviate these pressures. Joe Sparks, their lawyer, said that they never had their story told. He did that and now there is a proposal to grant land with strict environmental controls. So the land will remain magnificent; no Disneyland. And while Paya admits if wont do them a lot of good, "It's our land; it has always belonged to us." Yet more tourism would help, and that could come from more rapid access, leaving indelible scars. So, "for the young Havasupai with a birthright of poverty and magnificence, to purge themselves of the former, they must surely mortgage the latter."
This midwestern reporter had put his thumb smack on the Catch-22: they get the land but with such restrictions that its prime economic use is off limits.

The "Salt Lake Tribune" was briefer: The Havasupai are part of the Grand Canyon, too, so lets save them.

These arguments were echoed back in DC, as Canyon and Havasupai advocates crossed paths, though the recess from 20 Aug to 11 Sep brought some quiet, and a lack of people to contact and check with. The anti-Havasupai forces began planning a press conference in DC when Congress re-convened; they would state their case and gain the initiative. Pro-Canyon lobbyist H. Hunt chatted with pro-NPS lobbyist Hartzog, who suggested a fatal delay before the Rules Committee. Verkler, the Senate Committee staff chief, agreed with that, thin chance though it had. His prognosis on the Senate was still negative: a Jackson aide was pro-Havasupai and Jackson was wavering. Bible will not lead, preferring to see what Arizona wanted, and Fannin & Goldwater were together in support of the Havasupai. There is no environmental lead on the Committee. In summary, Verkler thought that a conference would be a disaster; there was too much erosion in the anti-transfer position. It might be possible to stall it for a while, but it was inevitable.

 In Arizona, I spent some time trying to learn what the BIA and other agencies were doing to help the Havasupai; it was quite discouraging, and made them seem irrelevant to the central legislative issue. 

The Havasupai side prepared a categorical refutation of the Precedent arguments. For instance, of the 40 tribes who might have a claim, not one uses or occupies the lands, and the aboriginal title in all case has been extinguished. The environmental list even includes 12 states where tribes have not resided for over a century. Moreover, Congress has taken lands from Forest land before to enlarge reservations. (Indeed, in the 1930's, a piece of Grand Canyon National Park had been first given to the Forest Service, and then passed to the Navajo, since it was "only good for sheep". That piece of land, by the by, is now being sought for a full-bore super-disneyland development on the Canyon rim at the Little Colorado, complete with tram, airport, roads, hotels, etc. Too bad no one was fussing about the Precedent in 1934.)

Time started its 12 Aug article quoting Evans that the bill was "a disaster of the first rank for the national park system." The trouble is the "innocuous-seeming" grant of plateau to the Havasupai for winter residence and grazing. Environmentalists fear precedent and "turning loose (the park) for private development in the guise of giving it" to the Havasupai, as Evans put it. Ingram, another lobbyist, says the plateau is "a fantastic piece of real estate", and sees vacation condominiums if the reservation is expanded. AAIA's Byler scoffs at that "slanderous attack". Kennedy and Goldwater have attacked the Sierra Club and support the Havasupai.  Something must be done; they wont move; their life is nearly unbearable; if their lot is not relieved, the tribe will simply succumb to poverty and disease.

In an odd memo, Alderson of FOE noted that the July ad, with a circulation of a million, had produced only 11 letters to FOE -- 7 pro-Canyon, 4 not. McComb must have hoped for a larger response to his national report of 23 Aug that reviewed the situation and asked for letters to congressmen (and Senators).

Even odder, given the politics of the matter, was a "Havasupai Comprehensive Plan" dated 30 Aug 1974, prepared by the state Economic Planning & Development office, and reading as if its authors had no knowledge of the two years of congressional debate. Our summary of the document emphasized that the first proposal was for two, not one, but two, tramways. Then a new motel at Navajo Falls (then in the Park), to be followed by others, with Long Mesa hosting "lodges", campgrounds, a trail, and a tramway -- after all, the document opined, the view from Long Mesa is "superior to the better known" Rim viewpoints in the Park. There would need to be improved access from I-40 and on the Willaha Road route. Also a truck-jeep route down into Havasu itself, along with the development of the east-side Topacoba Trail. 
[Of course, releasing this document was a political faux pas --though it was quickly rejected by the Havasupai and its lobbyists as being only a draft, produced by a state agency -- but logically, it did set forth an economic blueprint that might have worked for the Havasupai -- had they ever wanted such tourist development and consequent traffic. But any such desire was deeply buried by their disavowals and the protections Udall had written into the legislation. Had the "logical" outcome--transfer with development-- been allowed, the Havasupai situation would have been something like what the Hualapai have done on their land farther west or NPS & its concessionaires farther east.]

Evans used his spot in the September Club magazine to highlight the Havasupai effort to acquire Park & Forest land. As usual, he stressed the dangers that could arise from breaching the Precedent of not transferring lands out of a Park, especially for economic reasons. He concluded: "the competing principle: Having fought so hard to save the public lands for all the people, we cannot simply turn them over to one group…we must help (the Havasupai)…but we cannot give up our national parks and forests."

I prepared an analysis of the type of land being transferred as part of the slim-to-none hope of further compromise, stressing that only a little more than 10% of the land was plateau; the overwhelming part being canyons. 

The Havasupai produced a list of supporters: 29 organizations, 7 newspapers of over 200,000 circulation, 79 smaller papers,  and 2 syndicated columnists. As well, they produced a detailed refutation of our claim that a dangerous precedent was being set, though it talked past the environmentalist concern that a Park was being raided for private economic benefit.
Their friends in the Club's Colorado chapter again tried to set up a presentation by the Havasupai before the Club Board of Directors, but that suggestion was quickly strangled.

Sniping continued during the recess while the Committee Report on the legislation was being drafted. The San Francisco Examiner cheered that justice was being done, and the Club (headquartered in that city) fired back, emphasizing not the Precedent but that the BIA had not done its job. 

The Committee legislative counsel, McIlvane, we learned, was willing to help on the dissent from the majority report. In another conversation, Verkler repeated to me his evaluation that a conference would be a disaster; there was too much erosion in the anti-transfer position. 
Trying to Grab Attention and the Initiative

To re-start the debate in public with a bang, the groups fighting the transfer organized their press conference to be held on 12 Sep. Congressmen Foley & Dellenback, along with Brower, Evans, Litton, and others would present the case. Taylor would not come. The Club was joined by Friends of the Earth, the Wilderness Society, Izaak Walton League, Nat. Wildlife Federation, and the Forestry group. Some others, including NPCA, were not invited. (I was getting all this information at home second and third hand from Harriet Hunt and others. For reasons that are foggy in my memory, my presence was not required for these final parts of House action.) NWF stepped back from active involvement, however. The Club prepared a Q&A sheet trying to show it was the wrong land being transferred for the wrong reasons. 

I received an eyewitness report from Hunt: The 45-minute event was "very exciting". There were 3 or 4 press people. The Congressmen started off, and Dellenback introduced the environmentalists. After Foley spoke, Evans' statement emphasized the Precedent. Brower followed, talking up the National Park idea. Litton attacked the AAIA for issuing a pack of lies in its literature. Then up stood AAIA's Byler and Indian stalwart defender LaDonna Harris and began to debate the issues. Foley cut them off. Harris said the presentation was unbalanced, and Rep. Seiberling defended the Park advocates. An activist from the Nat. Cong. of Am. Indians said it was "open warfare" now, we will go after all public lands. 

An A.P. report quickly summarized the Precedent issue, and then described the interruption by NCAI's Trimbo calling out that "lies are being told here". So it was he whom Litton (described as a river outfitter) attacked for printing "lies". Harris responded by saying there was something "very racist and very unjust" going on with no Indians on the panel. 

[I have to stop here to recall a similar situation from the fight over the Grand Canyon dams in 1966. Reader's Digest and the Sierra Club had organized a weekend information event in El Tovar at the Canyon. It was for invited press and pro-Canyon activists in order to present the case against the dam and for an expanded Park. As with the later event, the other side (in the older case the Bureau of Reclamation and Arizona politicos) claimed the presentation was not "balanced", as if the multitude of Bureau presentations over the years puffing the dam was "balanced". Anyway, it made for a highly charged weekend. Yet I do wonder why people who hate the Canyon enough to want to build dams in it, run motorboats through it, fly planes all over it, and otherwise exploit it for their profit, can never let the Canyon's friends extol its virtues without always having to barge in, crying crocodile tears about pseudo-"balance".]

Back to 1974: Congressman Seiberling answered Harris by saying the Havasupai could hold their own press conference, to which Harris said "they can't get to Washington." [Her nose must have grown a bit on that one.]  Seiberling said he had been "deluged with propaganda" on the transfer, leaving him  unbelieving that a tribe of 300 could exert such pressure. Evans followed this with his Precedent argument.  
 In the aftermath, Goldwater issued a statement that there would be no damage to the Canyon; there were many safeguards. The propaganda of the conservationists is based on ignorance and "is designed to persuade public opinion by emotions." [The pro-Havasupai rhetoric, of course, had no emotional tinge.] He called the Precedent argument "ridiculous". Replying to him, H. Hunt cited the state development proposals to show our fears were not groundless.

The last sentence of a 13 Sep Arizona Republic article said: "The session broke up with an air of tension between the pro-Indian group and the conservation spokesmen." Recounting this does make me  wonder why the Havasupai lobbyists never organized their own session. And where was Joe Sparks? In any case, the legislative issue was now being starkly argued in pro- or anti-Indian terms. Looking back, I wonder if I wasnt glad to be relegated to Tucson. Anyway, with that old-fashioned western shoot-out over, we continued to wait for the Committee to issue its report so the legislation's backers could proceed to the Rules Committee.

Sources: As usual, this story is from the journal I kept, plus printed material I saved from that time. It should be pretty clear that throughout 1974, there were lots and lots of activities by Havasupai supporters that we were ignorant of. Again, I can only express my regret that Sparks did not want to re-live with me these exciting days.

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