Can anyone really trust Bruce Babbitt?


Babbitt has long proclaimed to be a defender of the environment and a friend to Native Americans. But his actions betray his words.
Babbitt added to Snowbowl legal team - Read the Daily Sun Article

Bruce Babbitt, former Arizona Governor and Secretary of the Interior under Clinton, has been hired as the lawyer for the Snowbowl ski resort's proposed expansion. Located on the San Francisco Peaks, Snowbowl wants to clearcut 74 acres of rare alpine habitat to create new ski runs and use up to 1½ million gallons of wastewater per day to make artificial snow. This project has outraged both environmentalists and Native Americans. At least 13 Southwestern tribes hold the San Francisco Peaks to be sacred ground. To many of these tribes, the Peaks play an extremely central role in their culture and spirituality. At the trial, Babbitt will be arguing against numerous Native American tribes and environmental groups.

As a prominent advocate for the Snowbowl expansion project, Babbitt is perpetuating one of the greatest acts of religious intolerance in the United States today.

Babbitt's Duplicity

Mimicking the worst from our nation's history, Babbitt became the most recent Washington official to stand beside Native peoples and pledge his understanding, only to turn around later and show that his rhetoric was empty and his promises broken.

On April 25, 2000, Babbitt stood with Native American leaders to commemorate the closing of the White Vulcan pumice mine on the other side of the San Francisco Peaks. In the eyes of Native People, the closing of the mine was an important step towards restoring the sanctity of the mountain. During that official gathering, Babbitt said, "This mountain is sacred in my religion. The first Franciscan missionaries saw this mountain from the Hopi mesas and named it after the founder of their order, after Saint Francis, who is the patron saint of ecology."

In the Snowbowl Environmental Impact Statement, The US Forest Service recognizes that the proposed expansion will have irreversible impacts to the cultural and spiritual integrity of the mountain.

Babbitt listened to the words of Native political and spiritual leaders. He looked at the damage to the landscape and said, "What I see here today, in all of these different religions, is purely and simply a sacrilege."

If Babbitt was true to his words, wouldn't he be working on closing down the ski resort, not expanding it? What happened during those five years to change his heart? Or was his speech to the Native Americans gathered at the White Vulcan mine all just for show - just for the cameras?

Five years ago, Bruce Babbitt had stood on the same mountain with the same Southwestern tribes and spoke of his allegiance with them to protect what is sacred. Today, Bruce Babbitt stands in the courtroom, with all of his political clout, arguing for the dismissal of their cultural and religious claims.

Bruce Babbitt: A History of Greenwashing and Betrayal of Native Americans

"No better case for cynicism about politics is currently available than the career of Bruce Babbitt, writes Alexander Cockburn in an article entitled, "Bruce Babbitt: Man without Shame." Before leaving the Department of Interior, Babbitt promised that he wouldn't cash in on his years of government service by becoming a high-priced DC lawyer. Then he promptly took a job with Latham and Watkins, a big Washington law firm whose clients include some of the roughest environmental pillagers in the business.

Ignorance Is Bliss (and Lots of Cold, Hard Cash):
The Case of Yucca Mountain

Within days of landing his new job as chief counsel in the law firm's environmental litigation department, Babbitt spoke at the annual gathering of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the $3 billion lobbying arm of the nuclear industry. He was cheerleading for the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Dump on Western Shoshone lands in Nevada. Babbitt's law firm represents US Ecology, the nation's biggest radioactive waste hauler and a prime candidate to get millions in contracts if Yucca Mountain is given the green light.

"Studies have gone on at Yucca Mountain. There's not much left to quarrel about out there. It's a safe, solid geologic repository," Babbitt proclaimed, evoking a standing ovation from the massed nukers, something even Dick Cheney had failed to do when he spoke to the NEI earlier that morning.

Babbitt ignored reports by the US Geological Survey (issued from within the Department of the Interior during Babbitt's tenure), suggesting that the Yucca Mountain repository would sit over a major earthquake fault and that it may pose a risk to one of Nevada's largest aquifers.

Babbitt also ignored the longstanding wishes and pleas of the Western Shoshone Nation from whom the land had been taken without their permission to carve out the Nuclear Test Site (where atomic bombs were exploded, at first aboveground, and later belowground). If Babbitt was truly a friend to Native Americans, he would be arguing for the return of the Western Shoshone land, especially considering that the days of the nuclear arms race are long gone. Instead, he wants to continue poisoning Native Land with more radioactive materials.

Hypocrisy in Action: Selling Out on the Endangered Species Act

On December 13th, 1995, Bruce Babbitt, as Secretary of the Interior, addressed the National Press Club on the merits of keeping a strong Endangered Species Act. He gave a convincing speech that seemed to come from his heart, referencing very personal values that he held "deeply and irrevocably." He titled his speech "Our Covenant: To Protect the Whole of Creation."

His about-face came just months after returning to the private sector. On April 15, 2001 the New York Times published an op-ed by Babbitt arguing for an easing of classification procedures involving endangered species. Neither he nor the New York Times felt it necessary to disclose that he might have ulterior motives as a lawyer working for a large land developer dealing with endangered species issues on the California coast (e.g. Washington Mutual's development of Ahmanson Ranch in Ventura County).

Betrayal of Trust: Billions Stolen or Lost

As Secretary of the Interior, Babbitt was responsible for Indian Trust Accounts, a program created in 1887 to hold the proceeds of government-arranged leases of Indian lands. The government didn't believe Indians could handle their own finances. As it turned out, the Interior Department has mismanaged the trust from its inception, losing or misappropriating as much as 170 billion dollars of Indian money in one of the most shameful accounting scandals in history.

Native Americans sued the government for their lost money. The government has acknowledged in court that it still doesn't know the number of trust beneficiaries it serves. It doesn't know the value of the accounts or even the number of accounts it is supposedly administering.

Babbitt had 8 years in office to sort out the mess, but the federal judge responsible for the case grew so irritated with his department's inaction, intransigence and outright deception, that Babbitt along with two other officials were found to be in contempt of court. When Babbitt left office, the Trust Account scandal was no closer to resolution; meanwhile Native American families across the country remain cheated out of much needed income.




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Protesters follow Babbitt with an underwear petition outside the Prescott courthouse

Download and print the Babbitt outreach flyer
- PDF 196kb

Attend one of Babbitt's book signings and other events and let him know how you feel about his involvement with the Snowbowl!
(It seems this link no longer works, click here for the tour list. Please check with the bookstores as some of the info here has changed)

Send an underwear petition to Babbitt!

"Hey Bruce, give back the pants!"
We are demanding that Bruce to give the pants petition back that was given to him when he helped protect the Peaks in 2000. In return we are sending him underwear petitions to show his "dirty laundry!"

Contact Bruce's publisher Island Press:
Chuck Savitt
Phone: 202-232-7933
Fax: 202-234-1328
View the video from the protest at Bruce's Tempe booksigning!
Contact Us

Save the Peaks Coalition
P.O. Box 1744
Flagstaff, AZ

Outside the Prescott Courthouse

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