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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : letters July 28, 2015

10/18/2011 1:09:00 PM
Letter: Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise


Sporting a monk-like hairdo and speaking with a silver tongue, Cottonwood’s own real estate mogul and rancher, Andy Groseta, held a majority of Cottonwood’s Council spellbound as he outlined how the special interest Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association’s political manifesto was the answer to proper federal forest management.

Taking a cue from the playbooks of Republican presidential hopefuls Michele Bachman and Rick Perry, he launched a broadside attack on the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) and regulations associated with it demanding that a five-year moratorium be placed on any legal challenges under the Act. With profound emotion, he singled out lawyers, litigation, and pesky regulations as the culprits standing in the path of the Cattle Growers’ plan to populate the federal forests with thousands of cows. He was actually serious about a manifesto goal of persuading citizens to tolerate unlawful activity under the Act during a five year moratorium --just to see what might happen.

Preying on fears of catastrophic fires and citizen dismay over federal government gridlock, he promised a doomsday future for Arizona unless the Cattle Growers’ manifesto was approved. According to him, without cattle munching more of federal forest grass, calamitous fires would continue and future famine was just around the corner. For good measure, he threw in a claim that the Cattle Growers’ manifesto opens up the prospect of future jobs.

Mr. Groseta’s ultra-right wing special interest political group has the same right as an ultra-left wing political group to peddle fact, propaganda, and demagogue local governments to endorse a political agenda. However, local governments should possess sufficient wisdom to recognize the folly of jumping on either side’s band wagon; especially on an issue that is dividing the nation. Management of the national forest is an issue, after all, for Congress where committees will hold extensive hearings and receive expert testimony from all sides of the controversy. Local governments have neither the time, money, nor expertise to arrive at a reasoned well-informed decision on an issue as complex as management of the federal forests.

Further, they have no legal jurisdiction to do anything about federal law governing the federal forests.

There is the old axiom, “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.” The axiom was certainly alive and well at the Council hearing on this issue.

For example, the Council rejected citizen suggestions that it should “hear the other side” of the controversy; not just Mr. Groseta’s. It likewise rejected suggestions that it should seek serious scientific verification of Groseta’s claims or at least sponsor a forum where all sides could fairly present their views so the Council could thoughtfully educate themselves on the topic. A majority simply plowed ahead demonstrating little of no actual knowledge about the efficacy of the special interest manifesto.

Councilmember Ruben Jauregui, who as former mayor, had led the charge to rezone acres and acres of Groseta’s prime cattle grazing land so the Mesquite Hills housing development could be built, also led the charge at Tuesday’s meeting to endorse the Cattle Growers’ political manifesto. In 2004, by the way, a check with the County indicates that the prime cattle grazing land turned into a housing development was sold by Mr. Groseta’s land company for $6.9 million.

The Mayor, who once claimed credentials as a staunch environmental conservationist, painfully appeared throughout the process, including the Work session and Tuesday’s meeting, more interested in courting Mr. Groseta’s approval than in achieving a fair result on the endorsement issue. She rejected out-of-hand a request from a member of the Sierra Club to delay a vote on the matter until “other sources could be checked.” She ignored other citizen input from persons who claimed expertise about NEPA and who opposed the manifesto as written.

The Vice Mayor seemed particularly perturbed by suggestions from citizens that Congress, rather than local government, should be left to consider the political agenda of a special interest group attacking federal policy. She was not disturbed by the fact that the Cattlemen Growers’ Assn. has an obvious financial stake in the outcome of the dispute with NEPA (beef futures are skyrocketing). Even more to the point, the fact that the dispute involves federal regulations, federal statutes, the federal forest, and will be considered by the federal government after investigation by federal Congressional committees who will hear serious scientific testimony, carried no water with her.

In the end, the 5-2 vote endorsement of Mr. Groseta’s Cattle Growers’ Association political manifesto came as no surprise to those of us who have watched Cottonwood City Hall for the past half dozen years. It was consistent with past practices and simply reaffirmed the obvious fact that powerful moneyed interests remain in firm control of a majority of local public officials and the local government itself. In Cottonwood, this is not news.

Bob Oliphant


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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, October 21, 2011
Article comment by: Thomas Dallen

From the beginning it has seemed to me that Groseta is first and formost interested in his own empire of wealth. It is true that cattle is big industry in Arizona, but it's also true that Arizona cattle production is a small percentage nationally. Personnally, without the aid of the "good ol boys" I cant afford much of Groseta's beef. At 5 to 10 dollars a pound for bottom end beef, I'll stick to poultry.

Posted: Friday, October 21, 2011
Article comment by: John A. Bond

Please, stop expecting the Cottonwood City Council to behave responsibly or in the best interest of the people.

It will only lead you to tremendous disappointment.

Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2011
Article comment by: Some Other guy

If private sector ranchers can't figure out how to raise cattle profitably on private land, they ought to change business. I like a good rare steak as well as the next guy, but I have no more interest in supporting cowboys with my tax dollars than I do any other welfare bum.
Andy's hot air all went out the window anyhow. This passage is meaningless.

Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2011
Article comment by: coyote pratt

Do not criticize the whole council two members, Pratt and Elinski, voted against supporting this. Pratt did suggest they join with 4fri.

Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2011
Article comment by: Thomas McCabe

.Excellent dissertation Bob Oliphant
regarding the Cattlemen's' Association effort to save the planet. How many forest fires has cow dung prevented? Many thanks also for adding another reason for VHS home owners to run as fast as they can away from annexation. VSF owners voting for annexation would be like moving their home to the center of a feed lot.

Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2011
Article comment by: The Cowpoke

Phil Falbo if you haven't found fine dining in the Verde Valley yet you should try grazing.

Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2011
Article comment by: JJ Geoffries

If Olive Garden and Chili's represent fine dining choices are Yugo and Pinto accordingly fine driving automobiles?

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Article comment by: futility indeed

oddly enough the fervent upheaval at this issue is especially ironic when you consider that mr. oliphant makes the complete counterpoint to his own argument.

if this is such a futile thing for the city to weigh in on, (must be passed through congress and the chances of that are slim to nil, even with the endorsement of the city that obviously carries so much weight...haha) then in reality the support is equally as futile... so why get so fired up?

methinks that as kids say these days ' hater's gonna hate'... no matter what the city or council do... mr. o' will find some fault... and that is one of the only certain things in this crazy world.

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Article comment by: Steven Richards

An excellent letter Mr. Oliphant. The profit-inspired answers to forest management from a group of special-interest groups such as the Cattle Growers Association and land developers are indeed suspect and not appropriate for public, federal lands.
All I can say is that if ignorance is bliss, we have a very, very blissful City Council. There are many complex issues driving the severe fires of recent times. The idea of using public lands to profit a few is repulsive enough, but the idea that these same people should control how the forests are managed for the rest of us is intolerable. NEPA was put in place so that all of us would have the opportunity to provide input, regardless of how we make a living or how much influence we have with the local political establishment.

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Article comment by: arm chair QB's

love to throw the long bomb's...

yet never actually hold the ball...

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Article comment by: Completely Agree

Another excellent letter by Bob Oliphant. Thank you for providing much needed balance and perspective.

I would only add this. Mr. Groseta is welcome to his opinions, but that's all they are. Opinions. They are not fact and shouldn't be taken as such.

When you look at the facts, you see that ranching in Arizona is close to a $5 billion dollar industry. It's one of Arizona's largest industries. And this is with the current protections of NEPA and the ESA on public lands.

You also see the 4 Forest project being approved the right way, through NEPA. This project will clean our forests to reduce the prospect of a catastrophic wildfire. It will create a lot of jobs for loggers and mills.

In another letter, Tom Henry cited substantial scientific proof disputing Mr. Groseta's claim that more grazing is needed to reduce catastrophic wildfire.

So the premises of Mr. Groseta's argument, if not outright false, are at least questionable. Yes, the Cottonwood council should have done a better job on this.

Beyond Cottonwood, which Mr. Oliphant accurately points out is irrelevant, it's important for citizens to understand that through NEPA we get full disclosure of what's going on, transparency, public input, science-based management of our public lands - instead of back room deals between special interests and bureaucrats.

Which sounds better to you?

Here's another opinion: The system in Arizona is not broken. It's working just fine. Our public lands are being managed the right way, responsibly for the best interests of all, and the ranchers at $5 billion are in fact doing just fine.

Perhaps if Mr. Groseta spent more time ranching than campaigning, we'd do even better.

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Article comment by: Me Not You

Sorry Bob, I thought your letter was an editorial. I should have known better. Nice letter.

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Article comment by: Me Not You

Wow, that was a heavyweight editorial. I am impressed. However, I have always thought your paper was a good friend of the bear you just poked.

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Article comment by: Someone who knows NEPA legislation

Hear Hear!!!! Could not have said it better myself. Not only are moneyed interests the problem, but a complete disregard for reality as the Council obviously has no understanding how NEPA or anything else works.

The Council would rather return to the dark ages of the polluted 60s where the Feds had no regard for environmental impacts or disclosing potentially harmful consequences on the human environment.

Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Article comment by: John Wayne

Wow! The personal attacks on Mr. Groseta reveal everything. Personal attacks, deflecting to a different period - "look at what the cowboys did a 100 years ago" - follow Saul Alinsky's rules for radicals. Which is IVAN - Identify, Villify, Associate, Nullify. Readers please don't be distracted. Our forests are burning to the ground in catastrophic fires and those who have had their way eliminating management with tools like NEPA and ESA now do not want to be accountable. What Mr. Groseta is saying is, "We will be accountable. Here is our plan. Implement it And we will be accountable." I haven't seen anyone else say, "hold me accountable for my plan.". The cattle growers "a right wing group" - come on! An organization that has been led by Judge Monk - John Babbitt and Herb Metzger! Get real. You don't like the SAFE Plan - refute it if you like - that is your right. You just have to read it first.

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