Millette Moments: The True Value of Resources

14 March 2010  
We need to cautiously approach tourism attraction in protecting Prescott's crown jewels.
Watson Lake after a recent snowfall. Photo by Lynne LaMaster.

When and how do natural resources become valuable?

What is the price attached to losing environmental, spiritual and cultural treasures?

James Ray raked in thousands of dollars from lost souls seeking an answer to the chaos in the world and several people died as a result of the lack of respect, research and energy toward re-creating a Native American cleansing ritual in Sedona promising those willing to invest in the hope of a better grasp of functioning in this mixed–up world. Yet, he sought and received a reduced bail bond because of his alleged financial standings.

Talk about an oxymoron.

Even more pathetic is the road so many have chosen to take in commercializing the natural features of Sedona's "harmonic red rocks" and the "power of the Sedona vortex" to line their pockets with profits at the cost of desecrating the very product they're selling!

Now you have the U.S. Department of Agriculture wanting to work out a deal with the City of Flagstaff to use potable water to make snow at Arizona Snowbowl for tourists to come and boost the Flagstaff economy.

As Cyndy Cole reported this week in the Arizona Daily Sun, the battle over balancing environmental concerns with tourism promotion is ongoing, and U.S. Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain are questioning federal movement toward San Francisco Peaks enhancement steps. http://www.azdailysun.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_777a27d5-d46f-56e1-9255-b07cebdfa07e.html

Why would a federal agency press the City of Flagstaff to offer potable water for snowmaking at Arizona Snowbowl that does not come directly from reclaimed wastewater, as the Supreme Court decision allowed last year? Snowbowl could get $11 million in higher costs for the water over 20 winters if the deal goes through.

With the change in weather the last couple days promising less snow and rain in this record-breaking winter weather cycle for Northern Arizona, I can't help but think about how much great snow-pack will be available during Spring break this coming week to get in some skiing or snowboarding.

So, what's the hurry to make fake snow?

"The proposal comes in response to tribal concerns that making snow with reclaimed wastewater desecrates the San Francisco Peaks, which they hold sacred," Cole writes. "Instead of making snow entirely with processed wastewater taken from the Rio de Flag Water Reclamation plant, Snowbowl would be tapping so-called 'stored water.' That's water located underground and downstream of the Rio de Flag plant, mixed with natural surface and groundwater from rain and snow."

Is closing down construction to keep Snowbowl from building snowmaking machines at the cost of using potable water a more noble action than using recycled effluent?

Given the hours of discussion on the pros and cons of importing water from the Big Chino aquifer into the Prescott Active Management Area, I've got to admit that I'm baffled by the fact that this avenue of "compromise" is not creating more heat by those affected.

Why haven't the Hopi and Navajo been brought into the discussion after the lawsuit filed by tribal leaders gave Snowbowl operators the right to use recycled water, an act considered desecration by Native Americans as we heard in the Yavapai County Courthouse hearings in Prescott?

Some of you are probably wondering about now whether I'm a tree hugger or just down on tourism promotion. The answer is NEITHER!

First off, I consider myself to be an educated environmental protectionist. That means I work toward protecting the environment and have spent thousands, not hundreds, of hours researching all sides presented of arguments on environmental issues in the Yavapai County communities I have lived in over the past 25 years as a professional reporter; striving to present balanced information to help educate people on issues directly affecting them.

I'd like to think that along the way I picked up a bit of knowledge in this area.

But I will never claim to be an expert, as I am simply a funnel that processes information into more easily understandable chunks, that hopefully, people can wrap their brains around and use as a catalyst to begin a more thorough investigation of their own into whatever key issue tickles their fancy.

Secondly, I do not condemn tourism promotion, and dedicated part of my career as marketing director for Arizona Territorial Tours, promoting the Greater Prescott Area across the U.S., Germany and Japan and served on the executive board of the Prescott Convention and Visitors Bureau under the Prescott Chamber of Commerce before Prescott Area Coalition for Tourism came along.

I simply say, it is imminent that we protect our most valuable crown jewels of Prescott while including them in a new endeavor to promote tourism in Prescott. Let us not take a similar path to so many incredible communities in the United States, let alone the world, and disregard the greatest assets the community has to offer in trying to keep the local economy afloat during rough times.

We've seen how rank commercialism tactics can affect people, cultures and the environment and have an appalling outfall on communities.

We have much more to witness as people become desperate to make ends meet while local, state and national debt demand alternative solutions.

We need to take the time to consider the best way to protect what we have, while promoting it and using our local natural and financial resources to preserve and propagate our cultural and environmental gifts.

Now is a tempting time to make foolish exploitation moves that may cost this rural community the greatest value it has to offer.

Like so many others in this community, I have chosen to live here and raise my children here, not for the money I could make here but because I know this is God's country and the people who live here and the incredible historical, cultural, environmental and recreational opportunities here make it a special, sacred place that is worth watching over.

I look to the members of this community and its leaders to be part of the decision-making process that should respectfully nurture this territorial gem into her coming of age with protective guidance properly fit for a lady of such grandeur.







Lauren Millette writes columns, news stories and more for Prescott eNews. Her idea of a perfect vacation? Camping over at the Verde and 4-wheelin' with her sons.


Lauren Millette