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When Will Arizona's Public Lands Battle End?

PHOTO: In Arizona and other Western states, there are ongoing efforts by some lawmakers to try to gain control of federally managed public lands, despite strong public opposition. Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management.
PHOTO: In Arizona and other Western states, there are ongoing efforts by some lawmakers to try to gain control of federally managed public lands, despite strong public opposition. Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management.
April 23, 2015

PHOENIX – The battle over control of federally managed public lands in Arizona doesn't seem to have an end in sight.

Following this year's legislative session, Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed two bills (HB 2176, HB 2318), which sought state control of federal lands. Ducey did sign House Bill 2658 into law, establishing a committee to examine the transfer, management and disposal of federal lands.

Tom Mackin, president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation, says the Grand Canyon State can barely manage its own lands.

"State parks, they've let them go unfunded,” he stresses. “They don't fund Arizona's State Land Department to adequate levels to maximize their efficiencies."

Supporters maintain the state could gain economically if it controlled more public lands.

However, Mackin says places such as the Grand Canyon attract millions of visitors and billions of dollars to Arizona's economy.

Mike Quigley, state director of the The Wilderness Society, says Arizona voters have spoken on this issue, with two-thirds of them rejecting Proposition 120 in 2012, which sought state control of public lands.

"These are our national treasures, and as Arizonans we're stewards of them, not just for our own use, but for our fellow Americans,” he points out. “And Arizonans realize that, the governor realizes that. It would be nice if the legislature realized that."

Quigley says in another recession, Arizona likely would be forced to sell off its lands to balance the budget. He adds that this issue has helped to unite hunters, conservationists and others who value the preservation of public lands.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ