PNS Daily Newscast - July 18, 2019 

The U.S. House voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt for defying congressional subpoenas related to the U.S. census.

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Presidential Candidates Asked to Affirm Support for AZ Public Lands

Parts of the Kaibab National Forest are coveted by private interests for mining development. (Michele Vacchiano/iStockphoto)
Parts of the Kaibab National Forest are coveted by private interests for mining development. (Michele Vacchiano/iStockphoto)
September 8, 2016

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Wildlife Federation and sister groups from across the country signed a public letter today asking the presidential candidates to commit to keeping federal public lands in federal hands.

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Green Party candidate Jill Stein have indicated support for that position. The Republican platform supports transferring federal land to the states - but Donald Trump's son Donald Jr. said recently that his father would not support a transfer. Libertarian Gary Johnson has said he's open to transferring some Bureau of Land Management property.

National Wildlife Federation President Collin O'Mara said this should not be a partisan issue.

"They were set aside by Republicans and Democrats over many generations from our greatest conservationist Theodore Roosevelt to the work of this president,” O’Mara said. "These are the birthright of all Americans, and a lot of hunters and anglers view them as essential to really enjoying the outdoor heritage that's been given to us by our forefathers."

Over the past few years, the state Legislature has passed several land-transfer bills but they were vetoed by Governors Jan Brewer and Doug Ducey on the grounds that the state couldn't afford to manage those public lands or pay for firefighting.

Brad Powell, president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation, said that in 2012, 70 percent of Arizona voters rejected a statewide initiative to transfer federal lands to the state.

"It failed in every legislative district in the state,” Powell said. “So we think it's an unpopular idea and we think legislators are out of step with their constituents."

The Legislature did establish a committee to study public land transfer. It was charged with producing a report with recommendations by 2019.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva introduced a bill in fall 2015 to create a new national monument on the lands surrounding the Grand Canyon, in order to permanently protect them from uranium mining.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ