A proposition before voters next week would, if passed, give Arizona officials control over federal lands within the state.
As reported by the Mohave Valley Daily News, Prop. 120 would change the state Constitution to declare the state‘s authority and jurisdiction over its air, water, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources on public federal lands with the exclusion of Native Indian tribal land.
Opponents say that the proposition would give the state legislature control over federal forest, national parks and wilderness areas possibly to sell off to private interests.
Whether that would mean that Arizona would have authority over the Grand Canyon National Park is unclear. One recent issue is the federal withdrawal of public land from uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed.
If the federal government cedes land to the state, that land would become part of the state trust and the state could only sell that land if it is a fair price and at the public interest. Selling the Grand Canyon is not realistic since it would not be in the public interest and would be too costly anyway, Moss added.
As far as mining on federal lands, Moss said other federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency would monitor and put conditions on federal lands ceded to the state, so Arizona would still not have 100 percent control over mining operations.
Sierra Club spokeswoman Sandy Bahr said her organization opposes Prop 120 saying it is unconstitutional and irresponsible and contrary to the U.S. Constitution. The proposition would allow the state to privatize federal lands and sell off the lands. The sponsor of Prop 120 also supports uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed.
“These lands belong to all Americans and to future generations of Americans,” Bahr said. “We should not allow them to be sold to the highest bidder or to be harmed by actions of an out of touch and irresponsible Arizona legislature.”
The Wilderness Society also stated that the state legislature has also underfunded and closed state parks and would do the same to millions of acres of federal land, which draws millions of tourists and dollars to the state.
Arizona Sen. Ron Gould said he supports Prop 120, arguing that the federal government has done a poor job in managing public lands in the state as well as other Western states, for example by mismanaging huge forest fires.
The Lake Havasu City Republican also said that in the U.S. Constitution, it does not give the federal government permission to control large tracts of land in the country, especially in the Western states. However, Gould said that Prop 120 is largely symbolic.