Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 16, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Preposition 110: State Trust Land Exchanges


  • State Land Commissioner Maria Baier explains Proposition 110, a proposed constitutional amendment that establishes a process for exchanging state trust lands for public lands.
Guests:
  • Maria Baier - State Land Commissioner
Category: Vote 2010

View Transcript

Ted Simons:
Tonight we continue "Horizon's" vote 2010 coverage with a look at proposition 110. It provides a process for exchanging state trust lands for public lands. The federal government gave Arizona its trust lands about the time it became a state. They're held in trust, leased and sold to raise money for schools and other beneficiaries of the trust. The state land commissioner is here with more on that, but first, David Majure shows us what proposition 110 will do.

David Majure:
Proposition 110 says the purpose of a land exchange must be either to protect military bases from encroaching development or for proper management, protection or conversion to public use of state trust lands.

Sandy Bahr:
We're supporting Prop 110, it's the only proposition we're supporting.

David Majure:
The Sierra club has historically opposed state trust land measures but not this one.

Sandy Bahr:
In the past, the measures said give the state land department authority and trust us and we didn't think that was enough. This includes the kind of accountability that we think will ensure that exchanges are in the public's interest.

David Majure:
For example, land included in an exchange must be identified up front. Prop 110 requires appraisals and public meetings and full disclosure of the public benefits of an exchange. A primary goal of prop 110 is to give the land department a tool that can used to protect Arizona's military bases and defense industry.
Lisa Atkins:
If you look at all of the employees, the civilian and active and serve and guard, it's the largest employment sector in the state of Arizona. The revenue stream, which is recession-proof is close to $10 billion.
One of the things that can close an installation down faster than anything else is the lack of compatibility either in land use or landownership around an installation. It brings what we commonly refer to as encroachment.

David Majure:
Land exchanges may be able to stop encroachment by eliminating incompatible land uses around military bases.

Lisa Atkins:
It's not only land use but land ownership and proposition 110 was designed to give the stakeholders, the military, the conservation community together to work out a process where we can use one asset, state trust lands, to protect another asset.

Sandy Bahr:
To demonstrate to the elected officials that this kind of process can work and it can help to do things like protect these military bases, help to conserve land and including important wildlife habitat and get the approval of the voters.

Ted Simons:
Joining me to talk about Prop 110 is state land Commissioner Maria Baier we should note that we were unable to find any organized opposition to the measure. Thanks for joining us we appreciate it. Why is this so important we have to go to a vote for it?

Maria Baier:
We have to go to a vote to change the constitution and this land exchange authority would require a change to the constitution. That's why we're going to the voters on this measure, what the purpose of this is, why that’s so important is that it sends a message to the United States department of defense that Arizona wants to preserve its military facilities and for us at the land department, it allows us to generate tremendous revenue for the public schools by bringing land into our inventory that produces revenue and exchanging out land that, you know, is better for other purposes, like conservation.

Ted Simons:
There has been a prohibition on land exchanges. Which I think would surprise some folks. Why is that prohibition in place?

Maria Baier:
Well, the Supreme Court found in 1990 that the exchange authority as it was previously interpreted to exist, violated the auction requirement in the constitution. And so they said until the voters changed the constitution to give them that express authority without going to auction, no more land exchanges. And so this corrects that impediment.

Ted Simons:
This takes the auction requirement out, correct?

Maria Baier:
It just says -- yes, it takes the auction requirement out.

Ted Simons:
How does that protect military bases?

Maria Baier:
Well, we have a significant -- the lead-in piece said, we have 9.3 million acres of land and much is in the area of the military facilities and there are numerous military facilities around the state and so encroachment, you know, development, growth, when it gets too near a military facility it often jeopardizes the mission. For example, out around Luke, you know, they need to have air space, for their takeoffs and landings and the Goldwater range, they need to be able to drop live ordinance. Down at fort Wachuca it needs to be deadly quiet all the time. Those things, when neighbors start to move in, those things can undermine the integrity of the base and missions and the state land department can be used as a buffer in some of those areas.

Ted Simons:
We're looking at a map that shows trust lands and military lands. And that relationship. If Prop 110 requires a public hearing and a vote for a land exchange, haven't we had votes for land exchanges in the past?

Maria Baier:
Not like this, we've not had this process in place. It really is groundbreaking legislation. And so this time, yes, there has to be two appraisals. There has to be two public hearings and we have to make sure that we trade lands of equal value and each exchange will go to a vote of the public. And so there's lots of opportunities for people to examine these exchanges, and make sure they make sense for the trust and the communities where the lands are located.

Ted Simons:
Voting on things is almost always a good thing. But it's a complicated issue and a lot of dynamics, putting it up to a public vote, is that wise?

Maria Baier:
We think the public demands that. They also want to make sure that both sides are getting a good bargain in the exchange. That's important. They also want to make sure that the integrity of their community is not going to be undermined by the exchange so it's important to have these votes and for those of us who have been proposing some exchanges over the years, we aren't afraid of it because there's some huge benefits to the state through this exchange process. And we know that once the voters see the parcels that will be exchanged I'm confident they'll be endorsed by the public. Things that make huge -- it will be a huge benefit for the state.

Ted Simons:
What little criticism I could find regarding the proposition involves a number of things, but the idea that this invites perhaps an inequitable deal that could sort-change the public. How do you respond to that?

Maria Baier:
Two appraisals are going to establish the value and these are public-to-public exchanges and the real concern with land exchanges in the past has been whether a private developer would exchange a piece of valueless or essentially valueless land for an piece of valuable state trust land. That's been the concern but these are public-to-public exchanges and it's not as if one public agency is going to try and swipe something from another public agency. But the appraisal process is where you really sift out the any problem that would exist in terms of valuation.

Ted Simons:
And another concern it might invite deals that could threaten open space, preservation and conservation.

Maria Baier:
Quite the contrary. This is the conservationist's best friend. You know, it’s an opportunity to take conservation parcels and block them up. BLM has a number of conservation parcels along the San Pedro River, we’re interspersed with those. They would like to imagine that as a conservation area which is different from our mission. We'd like to do that, we'd like to put that land in their ownership and get from the BLM some revenue producing -- say, solar energy sites or something like that. So this measure is an A+ for conservation in the state of Arizona.

Ted Simons:
We saw a little bit in the opening package what state land is and trust land is. And it's supposed to be sold to the, quote, highest and best bidder. By statute and in the constitution. One more question regarding the proposition. Why isn't just selling to the highest and best bidder good enough? Free market folks would say that works fine.

Maria Baier:
And it certainly does work and that's the core of our mission. We do it every day, that’s what we do at the land department. But for some measures, for some efforts like conservation, military base preservation, the private sector purchases -- neither helps nor hurts them. It's just not their focus. Their focus is can I build a home here? Can I build a office building here? I identified that site and want to purchase it. We don't have any party with a bunch of money that says I want it buy a buffer around this military base to make sure we preserve that. We don't have anybody that comes to us and say we want to preserve the land around the verde river. Those parties don't exist. This gives us an opportunity to exchange land out of the trust for conservation and military preservation and get land into the trust where we can make money for the beneficiaries. It's a quintessential win-win.

Ted Simons:
I was going to say it seems a lot more focused than efforts in the past. Correct?

Maria Baier:
Yes.

Ted Simons:
Last question, how much state trust land do we have?

Maria Baier:
9.3 million acres, there’s some in every county. We have more in our trust than any other state, except for, of course, the state of Alaska. If you think -- I think it's the states of Maryland and New Jersey together and consolidated them, that's the amount we have in the state of Arizona.

Ted Simons:
There's a lot of room to grow and lot of land to work with.

Maria Baier:
Lots of land to work with in Arizona, yes.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us, we appreciate it.

Maria Baier:
Thank you

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