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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : editorials May 28, 2016

9/18/2012 8:05:00 AM
Editorial: Prop. 119 not just another scheme to trade off public land

We are creatures of habit.

And that makes the prospect of voter approval for a state proposition to allow for the trading of public lands unlikely.

After all, this will be the eighth time this measure has been presented to voters. It’s been rejected the prior seven times it’s been on our general election ballot.

First, a little history about Proposition 119: When Arizona became a state 100 years ago, the federal government gave it close to 11 million of acres of land to be held in trust. The proceeds from the sale or lease of these public lands, or from selling timber or mineral rights, is to be used primarily for public schools. About 9.3 million acres remain. The Arizona Constitution demands these lands can be sold only to the highest bidder.

Proposition 119 would create an exception to this constitutional provision to allow for land swaps to preserve open space around military bases.

As it now stands, private developers own much of the land around Arizona’s military bases. Should that land be developed as high-density residential development, the fear is that the military will move their operations to another state, and that could have a crippling effect on our state economy.

In past years, such measures promoting land swaps with public land have been met with strong opposition from environmental groups. Not so with Prop. 119. Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, points to the land around the San Pedro River near Fort Huachuca: “That alone is enough to vote ‘yes’ on this because the San Pedro is a critically important river from a conservation perspective,’’ she explained. “And Fort Huachuca is essential to the economy of the Sierra Vista area.’’

Further, said Bahr, voters still will have the last say on these land exchanges. Once the state comes up with a proposal for a land trade, there will be public hearings, appraisals and an analysis of the costs and benefits. The plan then would go to the Legislature. If lawmakers approve, the measure then would be presented to voters for final approval.

Yes, we are creatures of habit. But at least with Proposition 119, this one deserves a close and careful read. This just might be a habit we need to break.

Related Stories:
• Eighth time a charm for Prop. 119?

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Article comment by: Itsy Bitsy Spider

Well, it's certainly better than giving the State retroactive water rights to those 9.5 million acres. So all right, you've convinced me. I won't vote 119 down out of hand. I'll go back and see if I can find this ray of hope buried in all that legislative yibble-yabble.

Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Article comment by: State Land is Not Public Land

Just so the facts are presented correctly here, you should know that Arizona State Land (also State Parks, Game and Fish etc) is NOT Public Land. You have to have some form of permission (license) to be on it.

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