Americans are fortunate in having millions of acres of public land. This land is used for recreation, ecological services such as maintaining air quality, watersheds for drinking water and flood control and appropriate economic development. No other people in the world have this benefit at this scale. Some say our nation’s national park system is America’s best idea. I prefer to think that all of our system of national public lands, i.e. Bureau of Land Management, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, Forest Service lands are great ideas. We are the envy of the world! This is why thousands of foreign visitors as well as Americans flock to national parks such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks every year. No one travels thousands of miles to view a uranium mine or a clear-cut or over grazed forest. They want to see the Grand Canyon in Arizona or the wolves in Yellowstone National Park. The economies in these areas demonstrate this fact. Go to see for yourself.
Headwaters Economics produced case studies and a series of reports that assess the economic performance of local communities adjacent to national monuments.
The Economic Benefits of Land Conservation includes original research and analysis from eight leading experts on the economic benefits of parks and conservation. Topics include the economic benefits of preserving watersheds, urban forests, and farmland; the impact of parks on property taxes; and how parks and conservation help communities attract businesses and residents.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) works in partnership with state and local efforts to help preserve the integrity of irreplaceable lands throughout the nation. As the premier federal funding source for land conservation, the LWCF acquires and protects inholdings and expansions in our national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, national trails, and BLM areas. LWCF grants to states support the acquisition of state and local parks and recreational facilities.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar outlined the economic importance of U.S. energy production and called the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “one of the nation’s greatest assets – both economically and environmentally.”
Designated wilderness areas on national forests and other federal public lands permanently protect spectacular scenic vistas, high-quality drinking water supplies, cold-water fisheries, the capacity of the land for carbon storage, vital habitat for wildlife, a wide variety of back country recreation opportunities, and many other values that are of benefit to society and the environment.
Another great American idea is environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Antiquities Act, the Wilderness Act and many others. These laws were enacted to protect all Americans and the natural and cultural resources we value passionately. Without these laws our public health and national character would be threatened. If anyone tells you that the air we breathe is dirtier now than it was in 1972 they would be lying to you.
Our system of protecting our natural and cultural resources is not perfect. More needs to be done. Climate change is just one example where we need to do more.
Unfortunately there are people in Arizona who do not appreciate our national public lands and the laws enacted to protect us and our natural and cultural resources. Many of these people say it is too difficult to develop and exploit these resources and that environmental regulations and public lands discourage job growth. The economic data simply does not support this contention.
Arizona’s legislature has enough of these people to refer to the voters in November, over the governor’s veto, Proposition 120.
Proposition 120 would amend the Arizona Constitution to declare Arizona’s sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the Arizona’s boundaries.
The objective of Proposition 120 is to attain exclusive control of federal public land, i.e. national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges in Arizona and undermine protections provided by federal laws, such as the Antiquities Act, Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act.
What makes this proposition so preposterous is that Arizona is not adequately funding and caring for its own state lands. Many state parks have closed and there are plans to privatize others. The land department is miserably under-funded, so how can our state possibly manage federal public lands?
Our national parks, forests, and monuments, including the Sonoran Desert National Monument, belong to all Americans. The Legislature’s attempt to grab these public lands violates both the Arizona Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Proposition 120 also violates the Arizona-New Mexico Enabling Act, the law that granted Arizona Statehood in 1912.
So on Election Day in November, let’s all stand together and show our appreciation for our national public lands in Arizona and vote no on Proposition 120.
Executive Director, Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument