Notes from the Peterson Office

A small house must depend on its grouping with other houses for its beauty, and for the preservation of light air and the maximum of surrounding open space.
— Clarence Stein

During a recent visit to Flagstaff, my father observed that many of the restaurants downtown are doing ‘land-office business.’ Generational differences in colloquialisms aside, he explained a shop that does a ‘land-office business’ is one that is bustling and profitable – for restaurants, that means busy and crowded. Anyone who walks through downtown Flagstaff on most evenings can corroborate my father’s observation. The combination of the ever-growing Northern Arizona University campus along with the booming tourist trade encourages more and more business along the streets of Flagstaff.

Considering the exciting and growing flow of people and trade through Flagstaff, I wonder how much do the visitors, and even many residents, know about the history and economy of the area that makes Flagstaff so attractive?

A common sentiment in the Diablo Trust community is that managed open spaces, and the managers themselves, are the answers to so many questions one can ask about the history and future of Flagstaff and the American West. The train used to bring in products and take out cattle. Industries such as meatpacking and timber were instrumental in the immigration of a diverse population of laborers and their families. Members of the first families of Flagstaff (some of whose names remain familiar, including Beale, McMillan, and Babbitt) were naturalists, outdoorsmen, and ranchers. The Metzgers and the Chilsons, the families who founded the two ranches that are the core of the Diablo Trust, trace their presence in the area to the earliest days of Flagstaff.

A major goal of mine in the Diablo Trust office is to help our community realize the relevance of what the Diablo Trust advocates and, of course, to support the organization. The Diablo Trust is dedicated to bringing this history to the forefront of conversation and to help make the link of what happened then to what is happening now. That which was so important to the early settlers of the West is important to us today: smart management of open spaces.

The quote at the top of this essay is by Clarence Stein, an urban planner and advocate of the
‘garden city’ movement. While Stein had larger cities in mind, his quote is applicable to our local landscape. Cities and towns populating northern Arizona are typically separated by private ranches and public lands. The academic and tourist industries in our region are heavily reliant on the aesthetic of the landscape – a gorgeous quality that might not exist without collaborative management. The beauty of our homes in Flagstaff and Winslow and Sedona depends on their proximity to other villages and towns, and on the ‘maximum of surrounding open space.’

Unless someone has a direct tie to the land there is a slim chance they would recognize the amount of love and labor that goes into managing the land so that sportsmen, recreationists, and ranchers alike can go out and enjoy America’s backyard as an expanse of contiguous managed open spaces. I recognize that not everyone enjoys living day-in and day-out on the land, being at the mercy of Mother Nature to determine how successful this year’s crop will be, of cattle or timber or tourists. This is why I’m working hard to make Diablo Trust a ‘land-office business.’

Diablo Trust is not a for-profit ranching company. It is a not-for-profit organization in support of a strong community, beautiful open spaces, and a successful future for land managers. We aren’t focused solely on our natural resources, but rather on all resources that constitute a sustainable managed landscape: people, places, and things. From hosting events and field trips for groups of all ages and disciplines to forming and encouraging interest groups like our new book club and our Wildlife Committee, I believe Diablo Trust can and will become a clearinghouse for historical knowledge of the region, the current status of land management, and the future of our natural resources. Being a land-office business in the world of non-profit organizations has less to do with profitability and more to do with recognition and continuity: the more people who get involved – whether through action or donation – the busier we’ll get, and the more successful we will be as an organization living up to our motto:

LEARNING FROM THE LAND AND SHARING OUR KNOWLEDGE . . . SO THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A WEST.

Jeremy D. Krones is the program manager of Diablo Trust.
Office: 210 Peterson Hall, Northern Arizona University.
Contact: (928) 523-0588 or info@diablotrust.org