Arizona Forward: Open Letter to Their Members

Source:  Email blast from Arizona Forward, February 8, 2017

The Arizona Legislature is considering a bill that includes a repeal the Arizona State Parks Board (HB2369), which we strongly oppose.  As part of Arizona Forward’s historic advocacy of parks and open space, as well as our work in creating a primer on the economic benefits of Arizona’s natural assets, we have registered our opposition to this measure and encourage you to do the same!

The State Parks Board provides citizens’ oversight to State Parks and is composed of people with various backgrounds, including recreation, tourism, and livestock, as well as the general public. Its purpose is to “select, acquire, preserve, establish, and maintain areas of natural features, scenic beauty, historical and scientific interest, and zoos and botanical gardens for the education, pleasure, recreation, and health of the people….”

On February 2, 2017, the House Government Committee voted 5-3-0 to repeal the Arizona States Park Board. I testified against the measure and will keep you updated as it moves the legislative process. Elimination of this important board will result in less transparency, fewer opportunities for public engagement on a broad level, and one less entity to advocate for a parks system badly in need of more advocates.

Please take action by sending a message to your state representatives today! If you are not sure who your legislators are, go to Find My Legislator and click on the link where you enter your address. You can then select legislators to find their contact information. Be sure to leave a message with an assistant or on voicemail.

We must be good stewards of these amazing resources, and need your help to ensure that happens!

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DIANE BROSSART
President & CEO
Arizona Forward

Since the publication of this letter, HB2369 is scheduled to be heard by the House Rules Committee on Monday, February 13, 2017 at 12:45 p.m. in HHR4.  Here is a link to the agenda. 

60th Anniversary of Arizona State Parks- Please Help Protect Our Park System

Source:  Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, February, 2017

Oppose Repeal of State Parks Board! Vote NO on HB2369. 

Please vote NO on.  HB2369 repeal; state boards and committees 

This bill includes a provision to repeal the Arizona State Parks Board.  Although there are certainly boards and commissions that are no longer necessary and that do not meet, the Arizona State Parks Board is not one of them.  This is a political move to concentrate more power in the Governor’s office and to eliminate the public from engagement and from having a say relative to our state parks.  It is an especially offensive move in this 60th anniversary year of our State Parks system.

The State Parks Board is made up of people with diverse backgrounds, including recreation, tourism, and livestock, as well as the general public.

The State Parks Board’s purpose is to “select, acquire, preserve, establish, and maintain areas of natural img8019682features, scenic beauty, historical, and scientific interest, and zoos and botanical gardens, for the education, pleasure, recreation, and health of the people. . . .” Elimination of the State Parks Board will mean less transparency, fewer opportunities for public engagement on a broad level, and one less entity to advocate for a parks system badly in need of more advocates.

Arizona State Parks’ system consists of 27 parks and three natural areas and includes places such as Homolovi Ruins, Tubac Presidio, Lost Dutchman, Kartchner Caverns, and many others.  These 30 exceptional places have been conserved over the past half century for the recreational, environmental, and cultural enjoyment of all Arizonans. They represent our history and our future. We must be good stewards of these amazing resources. The Arizona State Parks Board helps us do that.

Please do not eliminate this important board.

Editoral by William Thornton: Keep Public Involved in Managing Arizona State Parks

Source:  Special to Arizona Daily Sun, February 4, 2017

When Gov. Earnest McFarland signed HB72 in 1957, our state took a bold and long overdue step toward meeting the outdoor recreational needs of a rapidly growing urban population.  The law provided for a system of state parks overseen by an independent seven-member board to:  “Select, acquire, preserve, establish, and maintain areas of natural features, scenic beauty, historical and scientific interest, and zoos and botanical gardens, for the education, pleasure, recreation, and health of the people and for such other purposes as may be prescribed by law.”

The system has worked well for 60 years with quarterly parks board meetings held at locations throughout the state providing opportunities for citizen input into parks planning and operation.  How well has it worked?  If we measure success in terms of visitation, our 32 state parks recorded a record 2.8 million visitations in 2016. Numbers aren’t categorized as new or repeat visitors but, based on our experience, I believe a substantial number are repeaters.  We return to our favorite state parks because we’ve come to expect fastidiously clean campgrounds with friendly and helpful staffs of park professionals and volunteers. We have never been disappointed.

All that could change if HB 2369 becomes law.  Under the guise of “streamlining” state government, the bill would abolish the State Parks Board and vest all power in the state parks director, who serves at the pleasure of the governor. It’s a classic example of “fixing” something that’s not broken.  Parks board members serve without compensation and receive only an allowance for travel expenses.  Cost savings from abolition of the State Parks Board would be minuscule.  If “streamlining” state park management eliminates the opportunity for public input and oversight, the cost is too high.

The governor, Legislature and parks director don’t own state parks — we do. If you believe, as I do, that voters, taxpayers, and park visitors should have a voice in how our parks are managed, now is the time to contact your state legislators.

William Thornton is a second-generation native Arizonan, conservationist and outdoor enthusiast. He serves on the boards of the Arizona Heritage Alliance and Friends of Ironwood Forest. Contact him at cactusworld@msn.com

25 Years of Change

Source:  Arizona Heritage Alliance January 2017 Newsletter by Pam Jones, Alliance Board Member

25 years ago Bill Clinton would defeat George H. W. Bush for President of the United States. Fife Symington was Governor of Arizona. The population of Arizona was around 4 million and by 2010 it would grow to over 6 million. Apple would not produce the first color Mac for another year.

Arizona land was being gobbled up for development. Historic sites were being bulldozed and many endangered species issues were not being addressed. In short there was never enough money left over for governmental agencies to address all of these and other Heritage related issues.

It took a group of individuals and non-profit organizations from around the State to band
together and bring forth an Initiative that would provide funding for trails, endangered species,historic preservation grants, parks, educational projects and more. The money would come from the Arizonaarizona-lottery Lottery proceeds and to $20 million dollars per year would be split between the Arizona State Parks and Arizona Game and Fish departments. The Legislature did not approve of this idea but the public did and the Initiative passed overwhelmingly.

In 1992 individuals and groups who had been instrumental in getting the original Initiative on the ballot and passed, reorganized to protect and monitor the Heritage Funds and thus the Arizona Heritage Alliance was formed. The Alliance is a 501-C-3 and continues today to work with the Arizona State Parks and the Arizona Game and Fish Department to promote their programs, protect the Game and Fish Heritage Funds, and monitor both agencies to make sure that the funds are spent in accord with the original Initiative.

Since the Heritage Fund’s inception — over $348.5 million has been reinvested in Arizona’s resources. The economic impact to the community from these grants has totaled over $235 million with $140 million of this money coming from matching grants. If you hike, ride, hunt, boat, fish, visit a park or historical site or watch wildlife, then the Arizona Heritage Fund has probably a ected your life.

A win-win situation for the citizens of Arizona it might seem. The Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS 41-502 and ARS 17-297) state that “In no event shall any monies in the fund revert to the state general fund…” However, in March 2010 in an e ort to balance the budget, the Legislature not only swept the State Parks Heritage Fund, but it eliminated it from statute.