Remember Quartzite Falls?


   An update on the demolition of Quartzite Falls on the Salt River, formerly the only Class 6 rapid on any commercially run river in Arizona: a group of eight men, the acknowledged leader being one William “Taz” Stoner of Phoenix, were apprehended. Members of the group made five trips by foot or boat between August and October of ‘93, using increasingly large amounts of explosives to destroy the quartzite ledge. This ledge formerly formed the formidable keeper hole that gave the rapid its fury and claimed several lives over the years. Stoner, a part time commercial guide on the Salt, now claims to have done it for the good of all, to save lives.

   Maximum sentence for the two felony charges (Conspiracy and Destruction of Federal Property) could bring fines of up to $250,000 each, and sentences totalling up to 25 years. Three accessories to the crime have plea bargained to “probation and probable suspended sentence,” three others to “up to a year” and Stoner and Rich Scott,-(the demolitions expert) to a “12 - 18 month sentence.” Final Sentencing will be March 27. Below are GCRG’s comments to the sentencing judge.

   PS: You can write the judge, too.

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   Honorable Earl Carroll
   230 N. 15th Avenue, 6th Floor
   Phoenix, AZ 85025

   Dear Judge Carroll:

   I’m writing to you about my concerns in plea bargaining regarding events at Quartzite Falls.

   Myself and many of my constituents, approximately 1100 individuals, are not comfortable with the anticipated 12-18 month sentence for the prime offenders. We don’t believe the punishment satisfies the crime committed.

   We view the destruction of Quartzite Falls as a landmark environmental case. We believe the safety aspect, offered as Mr. Stoner’s defense, to be only slightly less realistic than his disregard of wilderness ethics. For a professional river guide to behave in such a manner demonstrates profound arrogance; to claim he didn’t know the law is absurd. To us, Mr. Stoner’s actions are equitable to saying Grand Canyon should be filled in so as to prevent visitors from occasionally falling off its rim.

   The ramifications of this case do not center on the monetary value of a rock. They are more aimed at something much less definable: the intrinsic, very personal, attributes gleaned from any true wilderness experience. To river runners, rapids requiring portage are a very real part of the landscape. That is where wilderness meets its mandate—in personal challenge. At Quartzite Falls, meeting the challenge does not mean removing its obstacle. It means rising to it. In doing less, wilderness itself is compromised.

   What festers is Mr. Stoner’s accomplished mission, this to alter a natural, very wild, place in his own interest. He did this by his own mandate for his own, very selfish, reasons. He has disregarded primal challenge in favor of personal comfort. I doubt he would appreciate my behaving with similar instinct in his own home. Further, he has admitted doing this in a designated wilderness area, a place where such activities are specifically illegal.

   Mr. Stoner and his friends must pay the big money, the price. This in the continuance of wilderness areas, unimpaired rivers, and frenzied, howling whitewater rapids. There are fewer of them now, precisely because Stoner Associates fail to recognize them as such.

    My sincere thanks,

   Shane Murphy
   President, GCRG