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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : commentary May 26, 2016


1/24/2012 1:01:00 PM
My Turn: Open space debate: Long live the goose
Steve Estes
Steve Estes
Steve Estes


The economic downturn dubbed the Great Recession has caused most of us to re-think our priorities – individually, in families, locally, regionally, and nationally. We are forced to re-think our views on almost everything, from personal pocketbooks to national policy. Perhaps the most vivid example of the times is a political environment that yields a federal budget that can operate no more than two months at a time.

When ideology trumps intelligence, when the interest of the party takes priority over national security, it is time to take matters into our own hands. Our community has stunning economic and social opportunities just waiting to be exploited. It all relies, however, on one key element – Open Space.

We have one of the last truly viable river systems left in the arid Southwest, hosting a rare cottonwood-willow gallery. That riverside forest supports a remarkable array of wildlife – both in terms of uniqueness and numbers. We have landscapes that are photographed, published, viewed, and cherished by folks all around the world. We have trails, mountains, hunting, fishing, boating, off-roading, bicycling, horseback riding. There’s picnicking, camping, birding, skydiving, ballooning and hang-gliding. There’s the simple joy of a wide open space accompanied by the sounds of birds on the wind and a deep, deep breath of fresh air.

Demographically, our state is one of the most urbanized in the nation, with 80 percent of the population in two metropolitan areas. That trend is expected to accelerate. By 2040, what some call the Sun Corridor (Prescott to the Mexican border) will double in size to 10 million people. The demand for recreation and respite from this crowded megalopolis is big now, and will grow exponentially.

Already, the Verde Valley has seen results from those recognizing these economic and quality of life opportunities. The wine industry is just one of many examples. Though not every example resides directly in open space, it would be impossible to see these happening at all if our region lacked this prime attraction and asset – world-class open space.

Open space is state parks, national forests, farmland and ranch land. It is city and county parks. Open space provides buffers of greenway and view scapes in residential developments. Open space conserves water and ensures water quality. It is publicly owned and it is privately held. Open space, with the Verde River watershed as its key asset, is our region’s all-seasons ticket to sustained economic and social prosperity.

A local leader’s call not to kill the goose (you know, the one with the golden egg) is a message we really should heed. In a time of re-thinking priorities and how we get things done, a shift in our thinking about how economic growth comes about will serve us very well. The words “economy” and “ecology” come from the same root.

Previous notions of economic growth have been based on the economy benefiting by using and extracting resources at an ecological cost. Though this will always play a part, a new relationship between these two entities is presenting us with outstanding opportunities. It can now be seen as an economy that draws big benefits from an undisturbed and wisely managed ecosystem.

How can we preserve our one key asset and avoid killing the goose? We can make sure the anchor attractions to our region – state parks, national forests, and national monuments -- are supported and remain vibrant.

We can make certain open space lands that are at risk to potentially degrading development receive sufficient public oversight and comment. These include both private lands and those at risk to be converted from state management to private development.

Finally, owners of open space parcels that border or are surrounded by these already preserved lands can take actions to preserve their open space qualities.

These result in very significant open space enhancements. Additionally, there is a large and diverse catalogue of substantial financial incentives that can accrue to those taking these steps. Here, a huge and rare win-win is realized by both the individual and the community.

Verde Valley Land Preservation exists to promote and ensure our region’s open space preservation. As its Community Outreach Director, I invite all those interested in any of these open space strategies to contact me at stevenrestes@gmail.com.



Steve Estes is the Community Outreach Director of Verde Valley Land Preservation and a member of Friends of the Verde River Greenway. He is a resident of Cottonwood.


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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Babbitt

Self appointed authorities go home!!

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Article comment by: Slam those darn doors shut, close dem gates, quick!

Many people who don’t want anyone else to ever move here haven’t been here that long themselves. It always amazes me how somebody moves here, then wants to slam the doors shut on everyone else. The last I heard, it’s still a free country, and people may move wherever they like. There will be growth in the Verde Valley, you can count on it. We are lucky to have all the forest lands that we do, and they will remain open. State Trust Lands are governed by the Constitution of the state of Arizona and the land department is required to ensure the “highest and best use,” of the lands for the beneficiaries (mostly K-12). State Trust Lands are private property, not public. Mr. Estes, will you and all your co-conspirators with the Verde Valley Land Preservation group give up your private property, then, and return it to open space, like you expect others to do? Don't spit on our private property rights, Mister.

Posted: Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Article comment by: Georgio Piachettapelli

... This is "United Nations Agenda 21" in action. This is the global socialist movement trying to take over the world. For more information watch --> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzEEgtOFFlM

Posted: Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Article comment by: Get priorities in order

There's no question the writer is largely correct about the value of open space and its importance to quality of life.

However, when it comes to authority over anyone's development rights on their own private property, this group has none.

To suggest a private property owner would subject their land to "degrading" development is arrogant and offensive. Moreover, what's degrading to one person may be the highest and best use to another.

Subjective opinions matter not as long as the development is allowable by zoning. If it is, then the owner has the right to develop as he or she sees fit. Period. And that property owner is then not subject to public oversight and comment as the writer suggests.

Instead of trying to tell private property owners what to do or not do, here's a better idea.

The work of this group in the Verde Valley should largely focus on what's most important, and that's National Forest land. National Forest land comprises the vast majority of our open space, so that's what's most important.

A second priority should be to conserve as much State Trust land as possible, with particular attention on the 10 square mile block between Cottonwood and Sedona. This is where the city of Cottonwood has proposed development of a new city with potentially up to 50,000 people. This land is eligible for open space protection however, with matching funds from the State. Great opportunity for open space protection here.

In addition, this group should work with willing private property owners who want their land preserved as open space. In this case willing should be the operative word.

To do the most good, let's hope this group keeps their priorities in order .




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