The 2022 legislative year has come to a close and now that the ink has dried we can say that it was a pretty good year!
There were four main victories for outdoor recreation from this legislative session: three from the passage of “good” policy and one from the defeat of “bad” policy.
First, the Arizona State Park Heritage Fund received a one-time $2.5 million dollar allocation from the State Lottery fund in the budget. Considering the Heritage Fund was killed by the legislature in 2010 and only reinstated in 2019 — after $120 million dollars in possible funding was lost—this is a big deal. But it’s still not a complete victory because $2.5 million only constitutes half of last year’s one-time allocation of $5 million. And even last year’s allocation is half the $10 million that the fund received annually in its 1990-2009 form.
Second, the Arizona Trail received a $250,000 allocation in the budget. This was a tough battle—after the appropriation bill was killed by mining interests defeat seemed imminent, but supporters were nonetheless able to secure a place in the budget. This cash will enable trail maintenance and construction projects by hiring trail work professionals. With these professionals on hand, the Arizona Trail Association will be able to “triple the impact of the state’s investment through federal funding, private donations, and labor from our talented volunteers.”
Third, the legislature overwhelmingly adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 1010 (a resolution is essentially a policy statement by the legislature that has no legal force), supporting the Get Outdoors Arizona Initiative and recognizing the importance of outdoors to Arizonans. This resolution passed 28-2 in the senate, and 58-2 in the house! Two details from this resolution are key to future advocacy. First, the legislature formally recognized that public lands are a critical component of Arizonan’s ability to recreate. And second, it formally recognized the incredible financial power of outdoor recreation—employing 201,000 people, annually generating $21.2 billion in consumer spending, and $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenues. The outdoor recreation industry dwarfs the mining industry in Arizona, which employs under 40,000 people and generated only $6.8 billion of revenue in 2018. The mining industry, however, enjoys an outsized influence at our state house.
Finally, the Senate did not pass a House Concurrent Resolution that denounced the BHA-supported 30x30 initiative. The 30x30 initiative is a global collaboration to protect at least 30% of the planets lands, rivers, lakes, and wetlands by 2030. As hunters and anglers, the value in this should be self-evident, but further reading about its benefits can be done at huntfish3030.com which hosts a letter signed by dozens of outdoors groups ranging from BHA to the NRA. Though this resolution would have had no force of law, adopting it would have been an unnecessary impediment to Arizona’s participation with no benefit to the state or its inhabitants. The Arizona Chapter of BHA joined the Arizona Wildlife Federation and Arizona Council of Trout Unlimited to speak against this resolution in a Senate committee meeting and was thrilled to see it stall.
Despite this good news, it still could have been better with a full $5 million to the Heritage fund and an easier path to fund the Arizona Trail. While we can appreciate that there is good news to share out of this legislative session, there is still progress to be made in by educating our legislators and making our voices heard. Let us both emphasize the findings made in SCR 1010 and become the faces of those figures.