We are halfway through the legislative year with our representatives back in session since June 12. As usual, many measures were introduced, but very few impactful items related to public-land access actually passed. The main highlights of the first half of the session were the passage of a new budget with public-land friendly allocations, as well as the adoption of a House Concurrent Memorial (introduced by a real estate broker) calling for the sale of public land to solve Arizona’s housing shortage.
Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs has officially signed the state budget including significant allocations to the State Parks Heritage Fund, Arizona Trails, and funding to create the new Verde River State Park. Outdoor recreation in Arizona is a $21 billion industry—directly contributing over 200,000 jobs, and $1.4 billion in tax revenue. Over 4 million Arizonans, and countless tourists, recreate on Arizona’s vast expanses of public land. Without these public spaces our recreational opportunities, and thus jobs, income, and taxes, would dissipate. Ensuring healthy levels of funding for the public land owned and managed by the state helps expand and create well-maintained parks across the state.
HCM2002: A resolution that urges Congress and the Secretary of the Interior to sell federal lands to increase residential development opportunities to address the housing shortage. It narrowly passed the House and Senate on party-line votes in each chamber. It did not require the Governor’s signature. While a Concurrent Memorial such as this has no legal effect, it is nonetheless a statement of policy by the Arizona legislature essentially stating that a majority of our elected representatives would rather see federal land be owned by individuals and developed than available for the millions of Arizona’s who routinely enjoy our public lands.
SB 1057: Protection for the Apache NF Feral Horse herd. This stalled in committee early this year, but you can expect this to continue to come up until the horse people get what they want. With over 103 people signed on to RTS in support, there’s no shortage of interested parties. This bill would have given the Apache Feral Horses protections identical to those that the Salt River Herd enjoy. Protections like this would let a massively overpopulated herd of horses continue to destroy the landscape and outcompete native animals, and would inhibit the ability to implement meaningful and effective management methods. Expect this to rear its head many more times.