Proposition 120 unconstitutional, bad for the environment
By Allison Weintraub
Out of the nine propositions on the ballot this year, Proposition 120 is undoubtedly the most outlandish. If passed, Proposition 120 would declare Arizona’s sovereignty, sole authority and jurisdiction “over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within its boundaries.” In effect, it would assert Arizona’s control over the roughly 25 million acres of public land — excluding Indian reservations — currently controlled by the federal government. Proposition 120 is not only unconstitutional, but if passed, it could lead to severe economic and environmental repercussions.
Supporters of Proposition 120 seek to annul certain terms of the Enabling Act of 1910, a binding contract between Arizona and the United States which marked the formation of Arizona as a state. Specifically, the Enabling Act allocated certain land, including national parks, forests and monuments to federal authority. As representatives from the Grand Canyon Trust point out, if Proposition 120 passes, “the American people and the federal government are not simply going to allow lands they currently own be taken away by Arizona.” What could ensue is a liability nightmare — and taxpayers would likely foot the bill.
Proposition 120 would also undermine important federal laws like the Clean Water Acts, Clean Air Acts and Endangered Species Act which protect the natural resources and wildlife of public lands in Arizona. “Proposition 120 would endanger the air we breathe, the water we drink and the wildlife and lands we all cherish,” said representatives from the Tucson Audubon Society.
Supporters of Proposition 120 want to invalidate Environmental Protection Agency restrictions in order to “unleash” the full economic opportunity of the land, air and wildlife. In reality, these public lands already “draw more than 5 million tourist visitors — and their dollars — to Arizona each year,” and provide “direct payments (‘payments in lieu of taxes’) from the federal government to Arizona counties in excess of $31 million,” said representatives from the Wilderness Society.
The current mismanagement of the state park system is a cautionary tale of what might happen should Proposition 120 pass.
“Our state has struggled in recent years to balance our budget,” said Steve Arnquist, chairman of the AZ League of Conservation Voters Committee for the Environment, “Our state land department simply does not have the resources to care for the existing lands that it manages much less managing the vast tracts of federal land in our state.”
With simply no funds to manage the newly acquired federal land, the Arizona legislature would be forced to use taxpayer money, or worse, sell the land off to corporate interests.
The choice is clear. With the passage of Proposition 120, mismanagement by the legislature would desecrate the treasured places that make Arizona beautiful. The privatization of public lands would jeopardize places like the Grand Canyon, Saguaro National Park and other public lands.
A “no” vote for Proposition 120 would assert that Arizona cannot simply seize land for its own economic purposes and would ensure all Americans can enjoy the natural wildlife of public lands in Arizona for generations to come.