Just a few years ago, community members in eastern Arizona worked alongside conservation groups and state and federal wildlife agencies to use the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to purchase the privately owned, 600-acre ET Ranch outside of Safford. This collaboration included private landowners, local ranchers, the Southeastern Arizona Sportsmen Club, the Trust for Public Lands, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the Bureau of Land Management among others.
The payoff for that hard work resulted in increased access for hunters, hikers and backpackers into the beautifully rugged Santa Teresa Wilderness Area.
Today, two politicians — Rep. Mark Finchem, of Oro Valley, and Sen. Sonny Borelli, of Lake Havasu City — have introduced legislation that would unwind those types of local efforts and weaken the public’s access to Arizona’s outdoor recreation areas.
Their identical bills, HB2092 and SB1046, seek to prevent private landowners in our state from potentially selling their land to the Forest Service, BLM or other agencies for conservation or to increase public land access. The bill is an attack on the LWCF, which has for more than five decades allowed communities throughout Arizona to protect our outdoor spaces, waterways, wildlife habitats, parks and cultural sites.
The LWCF uses fees and royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling to protect our shared public lands at no cost to taxpayers.
Arizonans take pride in our open spaces.
We should be doing all we can to increase access to our natural treasures — not restricting access with senseless legislation at the State Capitol.