HB 2210 was introduced to the Arizona House earlier during the 2018 legislative session and passed out of committee on a 5 to 3 vote. This bill was met with large opposition by sportsmen and women, recreational groups, ranchers, and multiple other public land users. Fortunately, it was not brought to the House floor in the latest legislative session, but it is clear that the intent of this bill was to strengthen the misguided attempt to transfer the control of public lands to the states. The state transfer of public lands may sound reasonable to those who are frustrated with the federal government, but it doesn’t take a lot of research to learn that this is proposition is designed to fail. Here is why:
States cannot afford it.
- Current state budgets would struggle to cover the costs of managing millions of acres of public land. Firefighting costs alone – the federal government faced a $1.74 billion price tag for wildfire management on the nation’s public lands in 2013 – would break most state budgets, as would the massive expansion of state government that land management would require, unless state legislators could quickly push through some exorbitant tax hikes.
- State ownership of lands presently owned and managed by the federal government would result in only one likely outcome: the sale of any lands not producing significant quantities of timber, minerals or energy to private interests. Stark financial reality will trump any other concerns.
State lands are managed for maximum profit, not multiple use
- All of the Western public land states were granted millions of acres by the federal government when they attained statehood. As mandated by state constitutions, state lands are managed for maximum profit.
- Federal lands are managed for multiple use, including hunting, fishing, shooting, camping, and wildlife habitat.
- In order to maximize profit, states sell public lands. State lands have been sold to private interests in every western state. Nevada, for example, was given 2.7 million acres when it became the 36th state in the union in 1864. It has sold all but 3,000 of those acres. Utah has sold more than 50 percent of its original land grant. All across the West the story remains the same: Western states have remained committed to selling off public lands.
- Recreational opportunities are generally much more limited on state lands than on federal lands. For example, hunting and fishing are prohibited on more than 80 percent of Colorado state lands, target shooting is prohibited in Arizona, camping and target shooting are restricted in New Mexico and dispersed camping and campfires are prohibited in Wyoming. Off-road vehicles are prohibited on state lands in many states. Nevada has sold off 99.9 percent of its state lands, closing public lands to recreation in a different way.
Decision makers must put an end to efforts to sell or transfer our public lands
- The special interests that are advocating for public lands disposal remain on the margins of popular opinion, and a sizeable coalition of sportsmen’s groups, businesses and individuals is mobilizing to put an end to the dangerous notion that our public lands should be sold or transferred.
- State legislature based land transfer bills are dying across the west in states such as Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico. The Arizona Chapter urges decision makers to continue to reject any proposal to sell or transfer public lands.
It is time to quit wasting Arizona resources and taxpayer dollars on schemes to take over Federal public lands. The public rejected this idea by over a two to one margin in 2012. The last two Governors and the majority of Arizona’s citizens recognize that this idea will not work and exceeds the financial capability of the State. The Western Attorneys General investigated public lands transfer and voted 11-1 to approve a report casting significant doubts on the land seizure’s legal arguments. Spending yet more Arizona taxpayer money to study something that’s already reviewed by the experts is just not responsible. Let’s instead focus our efforts on working together with Federal land managers to improve our public land management system.