Mon, Feb. 24

Verde Heritage 1969: Petition to Save the Cottonwoods, Part 3


"A statement on policy and recommendations has been submitted to Governor Williams by the Governor's Commission on Arizona Beauty after a meeting of the commission in Flagstaff at which residents of the Verde Valley heatedly protested the cutting of cottonwood trees along valley streams by the Salt River Water Users Association."

"The first paragraph of the policy statement by the governor's commission reads:"

"'Finally, we call for a complete halt to phreatophyte eradication in Arizona on the part of all agencies participating in such activities until a thorough ecological research study is completed, recommendations presented and agreements reached.'"

"The Random House Dictionary defines 'phreatophyte' as 'a long-rooted plant that absorbs its water from the water table or the soil above it.' 'Ecology' is the branch of biology dealing with the relations between living organisms and their environment.'"

"The remainder of the commission's statement follows in full:"

"1. The Governor's Commission on Arizona Beauty represents a wide range of member viewpoints on any subject and a cross-section of the state's economy."

"2. Along with our natural concerns for preservation of aesthetic values, we recognize a great need to conserve water."

"3. However, we question whether the amount of water saved as a consequence of phreatophyte eradication can justify extensive scaring of nature and harmful effects."

"4. We feel that alternatives offered by many public agencies and special-interest groups are too narrow in their application, i.e., sowing grass is no more a suitable substitute for a vanished tree than planting a tiny seedling can replace a several-hundred-year-old cottonwood."

"5. A great many Arizona citizens whose voices should be heard fall somewhere near mid-center in the phreatophyte controversy; nevertheless, two widely divergent themes run through the bulk of agency responses: (a) 'Defined by a farmer who needs the water to irrigate his crops, phreatophytes are plants that consume water and have no economic value,' and (b) 'Defined by the sportsmen and naturalists, phreatophytes are plants which provide habitat essential for the preservation of birds and upland game in areas where nesting and resting cover is extremely limited.' we must insist that a third definition be found to express the sentiments of the middle-of-the-roader."

"6. We do not deny that eradication of phreatophytes is necessary, but we feel that water salvage or flood control projects cannot stand alone; each project must be evaluated for all recognized values. Projects that serve primarily private interests are not necessarily compatible to public interest: therefore, each agency must broaden its scope of concern for public interest."

"7. We recommend that phreatophyte eradication be relegated to the position of a 'last-ditch stand' after all other efforts in the areas of flood control and water salvage have been thoroughly exhausted."

"8. Consequently, the Commission on Arizona Beauty recommends to the Governor that he appoint a board, the make-up of which will include a wide range of authority and interests, whose responsibility it will be to thoroughly investigate all studies, plans or contemplated projects of a phreatophyte eradication nature effecting any portion of the State of Arizona.

"9. Moreover, the commission recommends to the legislature that it establish a department of environmental quality to control all aesthetic and environmental problems, as was begun in legislative studies this summer, but which now had deteriorated into simply a 'water control department.'"

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, August 28, 1969; page 4.)


"By M. E. Thede"

"I sure have been sleeping better of late and it all has been due to a woman whom I have never met, but hope to one of these days, so I can thank her personally."

"As is often the case, there are a lot of Saturday afternoon quarterbacks, like myself, who just sit on the sidelines and talk, but Mrs. J. H. Schilleman, of Camp Verde, grabbed the ball and ran with it. Her efforts to save the Verde Valley cottonwoods and other stream bank trees from the clutches of the water-hungry SRP managers has resulted in a touchdown of importance to many of us locals, future locals and visitors to the Verde Valley."

"I wish I owned a beautiful grove of cottonwoods on the Verde River so I could put up a plaque dedicating it as a recreational area and henceforth to be known as Schilleman Grove."

"Maybe the battle hasn't been won all the way as yet, but I am sure that land owners along the Verde and its tributaries in the area are going to think twice before agreeing to tree removal by some fast-talking SRP representative."

"I really believe that it is going to be hard for the SRP to prove that this tree removal project will increase the water flow to the Salt River Valley by any appreciable amount."

"The removal of stream bank trees increases stream bank erosion and if the SRP doesn't believe it, I will be glad to lead any of their representatives by the hand and show them some good examples on lower Oak Creek."

"The loss of two key stream bank trees on our property alone has resulted in the widening of the creek two-fold or more. We can no longer hear the pleasant sounds of a gurgling creek around here except when there is a rush and roar during flood periods. The creek now under normal conditions moves sluggishly along over a wide bed of mud and gravel without a murmur or happy sound."

"What is the evaporation loss now in this section of the creek compared to the fast moving narrower creek of yesteryear?"

"Before the floods starting in the middle 1960's there was a sycamore tree about 12 inches in diameter or so some short distance from the creek that I used as an anchor for my fence water gap. During this time I would replace the wire with 50-foot strands of wire. This tree was washed out during the floods of 1966. It was uprooted because of a massive collection of upstream debris washed down and piled up against its trunk. Now when I cut the strands of wire to replace this same water gap, they are 200 feet in length instead of 50."

"The upstream debris such as has been created by the SRP in its past tree-removal projects is certainly a big hazard to downstream trees. The accumulation of this debris at the bases of trees causes increased erosion around the roots and increased pressure on the trunks during floods until finally something has to give."

"It did my old pumper good to read that SRP at least says it will clean up the mess that it created in our Valley."

"Thanks again, Mrs. Schilleman, for being such a good quarterback."

"One wonders if we shouldn't do a little thinking and doing about flood control in the Verde Valley even if a few control dams are necessary."

"I seriously doubt as to the SRP concurrence in such an objective because I have a sneaking suspicion that it would prefer to line our stream beds and adjacent slopes with concrete and head every available drop of water toward the Salt River Valley."

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, August 21, 1969; page 17.)

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