PRESS CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT
EMBARGOED UNTIL 12 NOON SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18 (2 PAGES TOTAL)
Where: Circle Bar Ranch. Coming from Phoenix on the Beeline Hwy (route 87), turnoff left (west) a half mile past milepost 209. The entrance has a gate fronting the highway with a sign: "Circle Bar Ranch".
When: 9 am-11am Saturday October 18, 2003
Contacts: John Whitney III at 602 320 4272
John Whitney IV at 602 791 9310
Carol Clark 928 462 3202
Martin Taylor cell 520 488 4861/ off 520 623 5252 ext 307
SUNFLOWER, AZ, Sat Oct 18, 2003:
Arizona ranchers and conservationists will gather on John Whitney’s Circle Bar Ranch for a press conference on Saturday, October 18 at 9 am to celebrate the introduction of the Grijalva- Shays bill, the “Arizona Voluntary Grazing Permit Buyout Act of 2003” into the U.S. House of Representatives.
They will also be signing a 3 x 4ft letter of support for the bill which was introduced to Congress on Thursday, October 16. The letter will be sent to all the members of Congress to urge them to support the bill.
Co-sponsored by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), the bill would give $175 per animal-unit-month to ranchers who volunteer to shut down their grazing allotments on federal lands in Arizona. For example a rancher with a permit for 100 cows for 6 months on federal land would be awarded a payout of $105,000.
The bill would apply as a pilot program to Arizona, where there is the strongest demand from ranchers, who have been working in close cooperation with conservation groups and Congressman Grijalva since August 2002 to develop this legislation.
John Whitney III, fourth generation rancher and the largest Forest Service permittee in Arizona expressed relief that the bill had finally arrived in Congress. “It’s a relief that Congress is finally seeing past all the theories and paying attention to the reality on the ground,” Whitney said from his ranch in Sunflower, surrounded by the 158,000 acre Sunflower allotment in the Mazatzal mountains on the Tonto National Forest just northeast of Phoenix, for which he holds the permit. The allotment has been closed for three years due to drought, and Whitney doubts he would be able to get the allotment going again even if the drought ends.
“ The whole situation has changed down here with new restrictions and recreation just going through the roof. It’s got to the point where I really need to move my operation to somewhere more suitable. But I have so much invested here. I really should get something back,” Whitney explained.
In a poll conducted by the Arizona Grazing Permit Buyout Campaign in fall of 2002, 154 (68% of those responding) of the approximately 870 federal grazing permit holders in Arizona expressed support for the bill (see www.www.azbuyout.org). Eleven other Arizona ranchers have since added their support. John Whitney’s son John Whitney IV, chairman of the campaign steering committee observed: “We know this is just the tip of the iceberg- a lot of permittees have told us they support a buyout, but they just couldn’t believe it would ever happen. Well now it is happening.”
The bill is intended to resolve growing conflicts between grazing and other recreational and wildlife uses on federal lands while giving relief to ranchers whose business operations have been struggling due to the combination of these escalating conflicts, economic downturn and drought. The bill notes that the federal grazing program is already run at a sizeable deficit, and so the buyout would also save taxpayers in the long term.
“ It’s voluntary; it’s fair; it gets us past all the years of conflict. I haven’t heard a single good reason to oppose this bill” said Carol Clark, who with her husband Kenneth also have allotments on the Tonto National Forest.
Dr Martin Taylor, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of eleven major Arizona conservation organizations* representing over 30,000 citizens that support the buyout legislation, said: “The buyout is the fairest, most clear-cut and fiscally conservative solution to wildlife conflicts. It provides an alternative for ranchers who might otherwise sell off their private lands. So there’s strong support from the conservation and environmental community.”
On February 2nd of this year, the Arizona Republic added its voice to the ranchers and conservationists who support the buyout bill, writing that: “if we are to conclude that cattle ranching in parts of Arizona has run its course, fairness dictates the ranchers who have invested generations to the industry be compensated. This proposal would do that fairly.”
After the press conference at Circle Bar Ranch, supporters will head down to the Tucson office of Congressman Raúl Grijalva at 810 E 22nd St, Suite 102 for a 4pm press conference where Congressman Grijalva will present the legislation and take questions.
* Arizona Wildlife Federation, Desert Watch, Maricopa Audubon Society, Prescott
Audubon Society, Sonoran Audubon Society, Sky Island Alliance, Sierra Club
Grand Canyon Chapter, Tucson Audubon Society, National Public Lands Grazing
Campaign and its member groups and supporters (www.publiclandsranching.org),
Wildlife Damage Review.