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Save Long Canyon - Part 2

Activist Proposes Solution

by David Belskis

Bulldozing in Long Canyon is scheduled to begin within the next few months. Long Canyon is Sedona’s most cherished Wilderness area and most sacred Indian land.

The most sacred part of this most sacred land is the prime central valley where the developers private land is. NZ, a large uranium and land corporation, might begin bulldozing thousands of old growth trees by as early as January, 2001, or shortly thereafter. However, it can still be saved.

The land is still for sale. Why would NZ bulldoze when the land is still for sale? NZ is having difficulty selling it. Many potential buyers have looked at it and passed over the last few years. They are applying for grading permits now before their other permits expire in June, 2001. The land is still for sale, but they think they want to grade out the golf course to make it more saleable to another developer. Also, doing some work before June, 2001 will lock in their permits. If they wait until after that, their permits expire, and they would have to reapply and go through the public hearing process all over again.

Many people in Sedona and around the world very much prefer to see Long Canyon saved. Many people believe Long Canyon is a very special sacred place. As such it is a key pivotal leverage point with more far reaching impact on the world than most people realize.

Many people have the intuition that the fate of Sedona and the entire world will be strongly influenced by what happens in Long Canyon. If it is respected, preserved and treated as a sacred sanctuary, that will bode well for Sedona and the world. If Long Canyon is exploited, degraded and sacrificed on the altar of greed, frivolity and carelessness, that will not bode well for Sedona and the world.

What is going on in Long Canyon is very symbolic for the whole Earth. A global tidal wave of sprawling greed and ecological destruction has washed around the planet for many decades. Now it wants to invade Long Canyon, one of the most special and sacred places on Earth. Long Canyon is where this tidal wave of greed dissipates itself in one last frothing gasp. Here it is stopped, turned around and transformed into something much more beautiful. This is the cosmic story and grand historical drama that is being played out in Long Canyon. A new vision for the the 21st century of caring for the Earth and higher standards for development is emerging from "Save Long Canyon."

Caring for the Earth and higher standards for development is an idea whose time has come. Why would NZ want to ruin their company financially by going against this motion of history? If they build a project there that does not respect Long Canyon as a sacred place and that does not meet up to the newly emerging ecological standards demanded by the market, then it will fail. We believe it will be better for NZ and for everyone to move in another direction - to give up their plan to develop Long Canyon and to work with us on a better way.

Our Plan for the Canyon

World Survival Foundation, a Sedona based 501(c)(3) non-profit formed in 1988, representing a large coalition, is raising the money now to buy and save Long Canyon. Even if NZ begins bulldozing, "Save Long Canyon" will continue in one form or another. We will work with the land in whatever state we find it when we buy it, to restore it as a wilderness preserve, public park and sacred sanctuary.

If the golf course is graded and the entire valley cleared out, that is only a prelude to it being an even larger and more open public park. Even if they build the entire project, we will buy it and restore it as a sacred sanctuary. "Save Long Canyon" will continue, no matter what twists and turns the story may take, until sooner or later, now or then, Long Canyon is saved. We believe it is better for all to save Long Canyon now. We have a new proposal for NZ, which we believe is a win-win situation for all.

Since January, 2000, we have been sending proposals to foundations and going door to door in Sedona to raise the money. The biggest problem has been the $14M asking price. Virtually everybody perceives this as being too much. It puts us in an awkward position, as though we are acting as an agent for the developer to make them a nice profit, while people don’t want to give them a profit for having ruined the land, and nobody likes being ripped-off.

Even Ted Turners’ foundation said, "We’d like to help you, but we don’t like being ripped-off. We can save thousands of acres elsewhere for the same price. You have to get the price lower."

We are moving toward a lower price. The price has dropped from $15M quoted in November, 1999 to $14M quoted in October, 2000. If they are not able to sell to another developer soon, it would seem there is room for the price to go lower. We propose that the developer donate all or part of the asking price. If they can only donate part of it, we propose they consider creative financing over a 10 to 30 year period, which will allow us to have possession of the land in the first year as a base from which to continue fundraising.

A first draft, rough budget estimate for a 10 year plan may include $9M to buy the land, $5M for the ecological restoration project (for consultants, contractors and labor), $2M for a temporary Youth Environmental Service (YES) Work Camp to help with the ecological restoration work, and $4M for overall administration, insurance and fees. The total amount is $20M. With a $5M donation from the developer off the asking price, the grand total is $25M. We are raising this money in the form of pledges. If enough total pledges are not made in time, single pledges are not called for payment, and that money remains with the donors. When called, that money is put in escrow until applied to the project.

Our goal is to "Save Long Canyon" by or before Christmas, 2001. We are accepting 800 pledges in units of $25,000 each, for a $20M, 10 year plan. We only need 300 pledges from private sources. The remainder consists of labor pledges, trades, and youth camp sponsorships. As of November 11, 2000, we already have 22 units pledged; 778 units are available. We are offering a 5% fee to anyone who helps bring cash units in.

Until very recently, our funding proposal was nowhere near as good as it is now. In the past we were asking foundations and individuals for the full $20M, and we were presenting this as a "save the land" proposal. We have learned that very few philanthropists get as excited about saving the land as they do about helping people. We were also emphasizing an Ecological Architecture Design Competition idea, for a small incremental cost, in an attempt to add value to make it worth the extra money (for the rest of the world).

The idea was to allow Long Canyon to be a "projector screen" to generate and showcase ecological development ideas and share them with the whole world, while not building anything in Long Canyon. If humanity knew how to build in harmony with nature, then environmental battles would never occur.

Our new proposal deemphasizes the Ecological Architecture Design Competition idea. People seemed to not understand what this could be, and it seemed to complicate the matter and confuse people. Our new proposal focuses more on moving toward a lower price, and has added a Youth Environmental Service (YES) Work Camp idea to work on repairing the land. This adds a new "human benefit" component, which is modeled on other successful programs around the country that help "at risk" kids by giving them a creative outlet for their energies by engaging them in positive, constructive, ecological restoration work.

Our new proposal only asks for pledges of $25,000 from any particular source, instead of asking for the full $20M. Few funding sources ever give $20M. Most never give more than $5,000 to $100,000 at a time to any particular cause.

We have sent letters of inquiry to 392 foundations and other potential sources of funding, and our previous full proposal to 40 of these. We have since received one pledge from a foundation, 363 "No, for now" responses (many wanted to see more money coming from Sedona, and a lower price, before they would be willing to give) and we are still waiting to hear back from 28. Provided that we have adequate funding for our annual operational budget soon, we intend to reapply to most all of these potential funding sources, and several hundred new ones, with our new, improved YES proposal in the coming year.

The Trust for Public Lands, Nature Conservancy, US Forest Service, and Federal and State government were all approached for funding at an earlier stage of our project. They all declined for two reasons: 1) the land is not in pristine condition (there are ruins from current and previous development attempts), and 2) the asking price ($14M) is higher than appraised value as a Wilderness (approximately estimated at $3-7M). Even if the land was in pristine condition, these agencies cannot pay or trade for more than appraised value as a Wilderness. We believe that our current proposal, if resubmitted, could attract partial funding from public sources over time because of the new Youth Environmental Service (YES) Work Camp idea.

Even before buying Long Canyon to save it, our work has been effective in lessening the impact of this proposed development (12 stipulations were added), in raising awareness in the community to environmental issues, and influencing developers and government to have more environmentally sensitive standards (the County added new golf course restrictions in 2000).

In November, 1999, Meridian West (NZ’s minority partner, which had exclusive control of the property for a six-month period) offered 11 ecological changes including: using solar energy and more "green" building materials, a more environmentally friendly Audubon International golf course, banning the use of pesticides and herbicides to avoid polluting and ruining the ecology of the surrounding Wilderness, an increased buffer zone between the Wilderness and the development, greater conservation of water to reduce potential impacts on neighbors water supply, a solar-hydrogen shuttle to reduce traffic and pollution, a three-acre environmental education center contained within the development, and more. Meridian recognized that all of these changes would make their project more marketable. NZ is not offering these changes and a new developer buyer may not either.

For more information, please read part I of this article from last month’s Red Rock Review, (available at redrockreview.com), or visit our website (www.savelongcanyon.org), and the Gold Award winning video "Save Long Canyon" available at stores throughout Sedona and from World Survival Foundation.

Since December, 1996 we have raised $64,555 cash ($16,100 per year average), and $387,430 estimated in-kind, time and services, for a total of $451,985. We have been operating on much less cash than is needed to do the job right. A $100,000+ cash minimal operational budget per year would be more ideal for our ongoing public relations and fundraising activity needs; $200,000+ would allow us to hire more people and do more work.

Your donation of any amount toward our ongoing annual operational expenses is most vital, appreciated and very important to help us meet our goals. If you can pledge for one of the $25,0000 units to help buy the land that would also be great. Donations are tax deductible.

Please don’t assume that somebody else has got this covered. If you care about this issue and have the ability to help, please make your contribution now. Thank you. World Survival Foundation, P.O. Box 3711, Sedona, AZ 86340, (520) 204-1281 voice mail, (520) 451-1281 cell phone direct.

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