Last week Governor Doug Ducey exercised common sense by directing Land Commissioner Lisa Atkins and state Sen. Steve Smith to reconsider an earlier interpretation of a rule that prohibited the leaving of foreign objects behind on State Trust land. Roughly two years ago the State Land Department started enforcing geocaching through the lens of that rule, a decision Ducey called, “pointless”. Agreed.
Whoopty Doo. How magnanimous of them to allow Arizonans to participate in a harmless, healthy activity on state land. More important than this non-news, is the crystal clear picture of the differences between State Trust Land and federally managed public land that this example paints for us. It also foreshadows what we should expect if our public lands are transferred to the state – restricted or outright loss of access.
Right now a federal (read PUBLIC, how clever of them…) lands transfer study committee appointed by Gov. Ducey and led by Rep. Brenda Barton is working hard on a propaganda campaign to convince the general public that transfer of public lands, owned by all of us, held in public trust and managed by federal agencies, to the state of Arizona is a good idea. They are going to tell us that the state can manage it better than the federal agencies and so on and so forth. Don’t take the bait. Throwing the baby out with the bath water is never the answer. Once title is given to the state, our collective voice will be forever muted. We should be urging our state and federal politicians to work on solutions to the real problem – the lack of adequate funding of the federal agencies.
This has always been a set up. Pro-transfer politicians starve the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service. Those agencies struggle. Pro-transfer politicians point and say, “see they can’t do the job”. Let’s transfer those lands to the state. Now they know the state can’t manage them for the same reason the federal agencies can’t manage them – money. So what happens next? You guessed it – monetize them. Multi-use management? Nope. Not anymore.
I published this list in a slightly different order in a previous article but it bears repeating here:
- State Trust Land is NOT public land. The rules are different. Camping, hunting, mountain biking, target shooting – activities allowed on America’s public lands are either off limits or severely restricted on State Trust Land. Sale is also restricted on America’s public lands. State Trust Land can be liquidated by the state to “benefit the public school system” or more likely to continue the pocket lining of state politicians.
- State trust land exists for one reason, to create the highest economic benefit for the public school system. Public lands are managed by federal agencies for multi-use – that includes both public recreation and resource extraction. Here is the first sentence of the Arizona State Land Department’s mission statement, “To Manage State Trust lands and resources to enhance value and optimize economic return for the Trust beneficiaries, consistent with sound business management principles, prudent stewardship, and conservation needs supporting socio-economic goals for citizens here today and future generations. “
- Pro public land sale politicians and citizens have no expectation of these lands remaining open to the general public. Well, unless they are barren of resources and devoid of benefit to private business. If feasible, they will be leased, mined, or sold. Gates locked and access to me and you lost forever.
- States cannot afford to manage these lands. The cost of fire suppression alone would bankrupt State Trust Land departments. Again, the pro land sale sect understands this math and intends to use it later as rationale for the eventual sale and privatization of these lands.
- The states never owned these lands. Each state, at statehood, was given parcels of land by the federal government. The states never owned the land within their boundaries. The remainder of land is held in the public trust and managed by federal agencies. It belongs to all of us. See the State Trust Land’s website here https://land.az.gov/ for more information.
Please write our politicians, get involved, speak up. The consequences of standing on the sidelines are dire and irreversible.