meat on the table

November 1992

[Federal and state agencies are trembling at the thought of losing land and jurisdiction at the wave of a federal judge's magic wand; perhaps it's naive optimism, but I feel that the Department of Agriculture will not simply roll over and play dead. Indeed, in a fit of religion, I had the following vision.]
Washington, D.C.


USDA: How should I put this gently. It seems to me that for the first time in its illustrious and infallible career the BIA has had, shall we say, a slight miscarriage of judgement.

BIA: That's impossible. We're BIA. We're God.

USDA: Well, you see, by wanting to give away--excuse me--sell Forest Service lands as part of a lawsuit, you have forced me into the role of deciding officer. And as deciding officer I fail to see that we have a case for categorical exclusion from the NEPA process.

BIA: What do you mean?

USDA: Read my lips: E - I - S.

BIA: You mean, (gulp) public participation?

USDA: Oh, it means much more than that.

BIA: But we're BIA. We're God.

USDA [into intercom]: Notify the press. Tell them lunch is served.


USDA: Well?

BIA [to CHAIRMAN]: Come here, boy. Sit. Tell them your position.

CHAIRMAN: We are a sovereign nation. I act by mandate of the People.

BIA: Good boy.

USDA: But I'm the deciding officer. If the EIS is appealed, it's my agency that goes to court, and then the Hopi and Navajo Tribes can be called as witnesses, and there will be pressure to open files. Don't forget that one of the key issues will be the EIS's long range analysis of environmental impacts. Now, what will happen on Big Mountain after expiration of the 75 year lease?

BIA: The EIS only has to cover what happens to the Forest Service lands.

USDA: Nope. Everything becomes public. No secrets. Do I need to repeat my question?

BIA: Well...

USDA: Say it. Spit it out.

BIA [very quietly]: Relocation...

USDA: I - can't - hear - you.


USDA: But this is supposed to be a solution to relocation.

BIA: It will be.

USDA: What about the resisters?

BIA: They'll be dead in 75 years.

USDA: What about future generations?

BIA: They'll have jobs in town.

USDA: And what will happen to that land after they leave?

BIA: That's covered in the Hopi Land Management Plan.

USDA: Mr. Chairman, what will happen to that land?

CHAIRMAN: That land is designated "Recreational."

USDA: And those mineral resource exploration teams standing nearby?

CHAIRMAN: They're tourists.

USDA: When this EIS goes to court, notice I say when, the plaintiff's lawyers will have every right to call Navajo and Hopi witnesses from Big Mountain. [to HOPI WITNESS]: Do you think that the Hopi Tribal Government has been representing your interests in this case?


USDA [to CHAIRMAN]: Can you cay "political scandal?" I knew you could.

CHAIRMAN: We are a sovereign nation. I act by mandate of the People.

USDA: Tell that to MacDonald. [into intercom]: Lunch call.


USDA: Well?

BIA: Perhaps we've been a bit hasty, but if we go back to negotiations, it could take another two years.

USDA: The EIS could take a lot longer.

BIA: I'll take it to Congress.

USDA: Go ahead. By the way, who is Vice President now?

BIA: Oh, God.

USDA: You will be Cooperating Agency on the EIS, won't you?

BIA: Excuse me, but I have some secret negotiations to continue. Come, boy. Heel.

[Exit BIA, followed by CHAIRMAN.]

The Circular File