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October 2, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Vote 2012: Prop 119 (State Trust Lands)

  • Proposition 119 would amend the constitution to allow Arizona to trade state trust land, with various limitations, for other public land. Learn more about this measure, which faces no organized opposition.
Category: Vote 2012   |   Keywords: vote, 2012, vote 2012, prop 119, state trust lands, ,

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"Arizona Horizon" vote 2012 coverage continues with a look at proposition 119, which calls for changing Arizona's constitution to allow for the trading of state trust land for other public lands. It's not the first time it's been put before the voters but this attempt addresses concerns that there's no organized opposition. Earlier I spoke with commissioner Maria Baier about proposition 119. Thanks for joining us on "Arizona Horizon."
Maria Baier: Thank you.
Ted Simons: What exactly does this proposition call for?
Maria Baier: This proposition would authorize the state land department to enter into exchanges with other public land management agencies, mostly the BLM for the purposes of better land management practices, most notably to provide buffer zones around military bases so we keep our military bases intact in Arizona.
Ted Simons: So the land that's around a military base, would this be private land? Would this be the state saying, we'll give you developer some trust land, provided you let us get this buffer zone going? How does that work?
Maria Baier: What we would do is we would give control of state trust land that is in the hands of the state right now. We would trade that land that's in or near military bases, and put that into federal hands, and then in exchange, we would take land from the federal inventory of lands into the state land trust. And so the feds would end up with land around military bases to protect their missions, for example, takeoffs and landings for air missions down in Fort Huachuca, the sanctity of the electronic range, the silence in that area, and then in exchange, we get federal lands where into the state trust land inventory so we can make money off those lands, which is our mission.
Ted Simons: And if it means making money off those lands, selling to a developer or some such, that happens, but that's way down the line.
Maria Baier: That's typically way down the line. And most of the time I think land in the area that we're talking about would probably be put into the trust for the purposes of grazing. Also, the exchange authority would allow us to engage in conservation management, and so there are areas where right now there are conservation designations over state trust land. Those are better managed by the feds. And again, we could take land out of their inventory and put those lands that are revenue producing lands into the hands of the state. So it would be great not only for saving military base, but also for conservation areas.
Ted Simons: I was going to say, the focus is on military but there are other aspects.
Maria Baier: Absolutely. It's just really good land management practice to have consolidated areas in one -- and one ownership. In the case of the military, you'd want it in federal ownership, and in the case of conservation areas, you might want it in federal management, in the case of revenue producing properties, that should be in the state trust land inventory.
Ted Simons: The idea of swapping state trust land under the general umbrella here, I think failed like seven times. Why is this different than previous attempts?
Maria Baier: Well, this ballot prop mirrors the one that was on the ballot a couple of years ago fairly closely because the purpose was for conservation, the purpose was for military base preservation, it was limited to government-to-government exchanges and had a public process like this one and appraisals. And so that one failed by less than a percentage point. And so we resurrected that, we're going to ask the voters to take a second look at it. We think we'll pass this time. The truth is, we have no time and no money for a campaign last time around, but this time we're trying to do a better job educating voters. And we think it's going to save 96,000 jobs in the state of Arizona. That's what the military has. And also about $9 billion economic impact. So saving those military bases in Arizona is very important. And then getting revenue producing land into the hands of the state trust is also important because what we do is make money for public schools.
Ted Simons: And as far as the opposition is concerned, there doesn't seem to be any organized opposition. Am I missing something out there?
Maria Baier: There is no organized opposition. We're not aware of any opponents at this point. We have the conservation community, the military support groups are behind us, we have the schools, we have a wide array of supporters. No detractors, and I think it's just a matter of people understanding what the impact of this might be. And the impact is substantial on the state of Arizona.
Ted Simons: Can you talk about the collaboration between environmental groups, Sierra Club and such, and the military? How did you get those folks together and talk about that dynamic?
Maria Baier: A lot of the credit goes to Senator John Nelson who ran this measure through the legislature to get it onto the ballot. And he was -- he just realized the conservation community was going to be key to get public approval. And so he brought them in, and the negotiations, some of the provisions that you see is what brought everybody to the table. The military knew that they -- they know they need these buffers, and so they were very good participants from the get-go government public to public exchanges, we care very much about there being a conservation component. We care very much about the transparency of the process and so thus the public meetings that are required. And that all of this is based on appraisals. So no side gets taken to the cleaners. So all these safeguards are in place for these exchanges. And it's a huge benefit.
Ted Simons: I was going to say the public oversight, you have to have hearings, you have to have legislative approvals, you have to have the voter OK. That's a lot of hoops and hurdles to get through.
Maria Baier: It's a lot of hoops and hurdles, but it's transparent, and it really is a safeguard to anything that might be inappropriate because at the end of the day, you rely on the Democratic process for approval. So it goes to a vote of the public and if they take a look and say it's the right thing, then the exchange is complete.
Ted Simons: How much in the way of land are we talking about? We looked at a map, maybe we can get that back up. The blue area was state trust land and the pink area was military facility. What are we looking at in terms of numbers?
Maria Baier: Well, let me say that almost all of the military installation, in are dozens across the state of Arizona, at the end of the day, there's a few identified on the map. But in the area of most of these military installations, there are state trust lands that could be used to help preserve the mission. The inventory of state lands across the state is 9.3 million acers. And so we cover 13% of the surface area of Arizona. So in many in or near many of those bases there are state trust lands that can help preserve the mission. The inventory of lands that we would likely get to trade from would be BLM. They manage about 13 million acres of land across the state. So you can see that we both have very attractive inventories of land that we could find ways to exchange for the betterment of Arizona.
Ted Simons: If let's say a land -- near a military base or environmentally sensitive area, and we had to get the hearings and the legislative approval and the voter OK, and the whole nine yards, what kind of time frame are we looking at here for a deal? A swap, if you will?
Maria Baier: You know, it's hard to say. As with any land transaction, but I would say by the time that the lands are identified, probably a year to two years, I would say the first one might take longer because you have to work out the process that after that, you know, we just have to make sure we could get it to the ballot. General election. So that's every other year.
Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good information. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
Maria Baier: Thank you, Ted. Oh, can I say one thing?
Ted Simons: Sure.
Maria Baier: The website is Hopefully people can visit it.
Ted Simons: Thank you.
Maria Baier: Thank you.