Like other states making up the United States of America, Arizona promised as a condition of statehood to leave title and control of federal lands with the federal government. But that promise is not stopping the benighted Arizona state legislature from attempting a land grab on November 6, 2012.
On the general election ballot will appear Proposition 120, a constitutional amendment asserting state sovereignty and establishing that Arizona has exclusive authority and jurisdiction over air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife, and other natural resources in the state. If Prop 120 passes, it would appear to give Arizona control over many of our federal lands and could undermine protections provided by federal laws, such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act.
But in fact, Arizona cannot legally gain control over federal lands. Such an action would be an unconstitutional repudiation of the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and in conflict with the state’s Enabling Act, which states:
“That the people inhabiting said proposed State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated and ungranted public lands lying within the boundaries thereof and to all lands lying within said boundaries owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes, the right or title to which shall have been acquired through or from the United States or any prior sovereignty, and that until the title of such Indian or Indian tribes shall have been extinguished the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition and under the absolute jurisdiction and control of the Congress of the United States . . . .” [Emphasis added.]
Economically and morally, this assertion of state sovereignty does not make sense. The state has difficulty funding the care of its own state park system and state trust lands, let alone trying to pay for management and care of all of federal lands within its borders. And these lands do not belong to the legislature or only to the people of Arizona. All of the federal land, including national parks, forests, and monuments within Arizona’s boundaries are public lands that belong to all Americans. Taking control over them would be stealing from the American people and future generations.
These lands are also supported strongly by the public throughout the West and in Arizona. A 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll, completed in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), found that voters across the West and 9 in 10 Arizona voters agreed that public lands such as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are “an essential part” of the economies of these states, and the quality of life of residents. Four in five western voters view having a strong economy and protecting land and water as compatible.
Proposition 120 will be on the November 2012 ballot. Let us provide the Arizona state legislature the clear feedback they are looking for. Please vote NO on Prop 120.