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AZ Groups Press Lawmakers on Public Lands, Water Issues

Wednesday, conservation groups are pressing their concerns about maintaining clean energy, water and air with lawmakers at the State Capitol.(gnagel/iStockphoto)
Wednesday, conservation groups are pressing their concerns about maintaining clean energy, water and air with lawmakers at the State Capitol.(gnagel/iStockphoto)
February 7, 2018

PHOENIX – Arizona conservation groups say they hope to beat back moves to transfer public lands to state control and to over pump Arizona's rivers.

Those are among the hot issues on this Environmental Day at the State Legislature.

After a 9 a.m. rally at the Capitol, the large coalition of groups has meetings with lawmakers.

Doug Bland, executive director of Arizona Interfaith Power and Light, says one of the biggest issues is making sure rivers like the Upper Verde and San Pedro aren't overused.

"Make sure that it's not just pumping groundwater for municipalities, but also leaving enough water for wildlife and riparian areas,” he stresses. “So, it's not just human beings that exist along the rivers, but other creatures as well."

Bland says he is also concerned about House Bill 2210, which urges the state to take control of federal public lands.

Supporters of the idea say the state would do a better job of managing the lands, but they aren't clear about how the state could afford the responsibility and cost of fire fighting on those lands.

Birgit Loewenstein, board treasurer for the group Save Our Ancient Red Rocks, suspects that the state would simply seek to bring in tax dollars by exploiting the natural resources and allowing more drilling, mining and ranching on public land.

"We are worried about the western states' movement of transferring such lands to the state for purposes of tax revenue by the state,” she states. “And that would mean that the lands get leased to industry, or sold."

High school student Anna Rose Mohr-Almeida, who describes herself as a climate change activist, says she and her friends at the Earth Club at Westwood High want to keep public lands accessible and clean up the environmental mistakes of the past.

"I'm starting to see the effects of what the past generations have done to our generation, and I want to clean it all up before my grandkids have to take it over,” she states. “And it's just going to get messier and messier if we don't do anything."

The conservation groups behind the rally say they're also concerned about the State Legislature's effort to undermine citizen initiatives with House Bill 2404, a bill that would make initiatives more expensive and difficult.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ