Arizona Federal Land Grab Falls Short at Polls
Proposition 120, a ballot initiative in Arizona aimed at claiming state control of federally managed public lands in the state criticized by most as a massively expensive land grab, failed at the polls this week, as voters rejected the amendment to the Arizona Constitution that would have declared the state’s sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the state’s boundaries.
According to the Summit County (Colo.) Citizens Voice, the land grab would have covered some 27 million acres of public land, including 23 national parks, monuments and recreation areas spanning 3.3 million acres; 90 wilderness areas spanning 4.5 million acres; 10 national wildlife refuges spanning 1.7 million acres; two wild and scenic rivers spanning over 82 river miles; six national forests spanning 11.8 million acres; and 12.1 million acres of lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, according to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity.
The initiative was supported by some of the usual suspects in western public lands battles, including the Arizona Farm Bureau, which was on record as saying that its members are frustrated with “federal mismanagement” of public lands.
Supporters claimed the measure would have increased the state’s ability to improve the management of public lands, while critics saw it as a bid to privatize some lands and allow unfettered logging and mining in other areas.
A recent federal move to withdraw some public lands from speculative uranium mine leasing may have been one of the triggers for the ballot measure
Critics in Arizona said the measure would have been extremely costly for the state, which barely has the resources to manage lands already under its control. It’s very likely the law would have been invalidated by courts as a move that’s preempted by federal law.
“Public lands in Arizona harbor some of America’s most iconic national parks, rivers, forests and wildlife,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Handing those lands over to Arizona would be a disaster for national treasures like the Grand Canyon and native animals like the Mexican gray wolf.”