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10/13/2012 8:33:00 AM
Prop. 120 would declare state sovereignty over resources
Rep. Chester Crandell, R-Heber said sovereignty would put Arizona in charge of its forests, including managing logging and thinning, to prevent catastrophes such as the 2011 Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.
Brandon Quester/Courtesy photo
Rep. Chester Crandell, R-Heber said sovereignty would put Arizona in charge of its forests, including managing logging and thinning, to prevent catastrophes such as the 2011 Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.
Brandon Quester/Courtesy photo
Proposition 120 facts
What it covers: Arizona's air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within its boundaries.

What it doesn't cover: Native American reservations, national parks and military installations.

Sponsors: State Reps. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, and Brenda Barton, R-Payson; state Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake.

By Sean Peick
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX - When Rep. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, looks back at wildfires that have devastated Arizona's forests in recent years, he sees a legacy of mismanagement by the federal government.

"We have not been able to get in and log properly and to clean our forests up," he said. "And that's led to catastrophic wildfires."

That's just one example, according to Crandell, of the federal government keeping Arizona from properly managing and benefiting from natural resources within its boundaries.

In response, he and other supporters of Prop. 120 say, Arizona should declare its sovereignty.

"This just simply sets the groundwork and sets the message to the federal government that we are a sovereign state," Crandell said. "And we will take care of things within our state boundaries."

Prop. 120 would amend the Arizona Constitution to say the state "declares its sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within its boundaries."

The proposition wouldn't cover Native American reservations, national parks and military installations.

Crandell said sovereignty would put Arizona in charge of its forests, including managing logging and thinning, to prevent catastrophes such as the 2011 Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history. Managing logging also would increase state revenues, he said.

"It would be managed to the point that we would utilize it and it would be sustained, but we would generate income off it," Crandell said.

State Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, a co-sponsor of the legislation referred to the ballot, said Arizona could fight wildfires on its own as well as the federal government does.

"And there'd be many firefighters from around the country who'd be willing to come help," she said.

But since federal authority trumps that of the states, would this be anything more than a political statement to Washington?

"It's very clearly unconstitutional," said Paul Bender, who teaches state and federal constitutional law at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

"Most people have more sense than to think that you can be part of the United States and not part of the United States depending on whether you like what the federal government's doing or not," he said.

Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter, scoffed at the idea that a state unable to fund its own parks could take over managing federal land.

"The Legislature has a dismal record when it comes to public lands issues," she said. "Frankly, they cannot be trusted with these federal public lands."

Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff, called the notion that local fire departments could effectively fight large wildfires "outlandish."

"The truth is, even all of the state's fire departments could not mobilize, secure air tankers and deliver a thousand firefighters in three days as the federal government has done with the Wallow Fire," he said. "I mean, how in the world could we respond to that, and then secondly, how in the world could we afford it?"

Crandell acknowledged that the state doesn't currently have the money to manage forests and other natural resources on federal land. But he said private businesses could help.

"As you open these up and we are able to have logging contracts, we're able to have other projects to go in and harvest and use the product for a beneficial purpose, then I think you generate the money, that it takes care of itself," he said.

Related Stories:
• Prop. 117 seeks to limit increases in property valuation for taxes
• Prop. 116 supporters say lower taxes on business property would spur hiring


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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, October 19, 2012
Article comment by: carter anders

The feds sending 2-3000 people to "fight a fire" is laughable. They will protect properties and try to do some containment, but the Willow and Rodeo fires died down on their own accord, running out of fuel around the same time that humidity came up and winds died down. Besides, we would've not lost over a million acres in these fires had they allowed thinning from literally 2000 trees per acre down to 30-60 trees an acre, as the forest was before our forefathers clearcut the area. Look at California. The whacko evironmentalists and feds don't want human foot prints in the forest, and that is their long term goal, period.




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