My Turn: GOP Must Once Again Embrace Conservation by David Jenkins, President of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship

(Source: Arizona Republic, July 16, 2016).  The Republican Party’s newly adopted 2016 platform contains narrowly approved language calling for our national endowment of federal public lands, which currently belong to all Americans, to be surrendered to states in order to benefit special interests. Given the Republican Party’s strong conservation legacy, it is worth noting just how radical that position is.

The proposed platform language is way out of line with the public-land and conservation ethic that the country has embraced since the early 1900s when Republican president Theodore Roosevelt — responding to the rampant abuse of America’s natural resources — made conservation a priority.

The 1912 Republican Party platform was very clear about the party’s approach to our nation’s natural resources, proclaiming, “We rejoice in the success of the distinctive Republican policy of the conservation of our National resources, for their use by the people without waste and without monopoly. We pledge ourselves to a continuance of such a policy.”  Even though Roosevelt was not the GOP nominee that year, the party continued to embrace his conservation principles. This has also been the case in subsequent platforms.

Even more on point, the 1924 Republican platform declared, “The natural resources of the country belong to all the people and are a part of an estate belonging to generations yet unborn.”

What conservatism really means

That is the kind of prudent, reverent, unselfish and forward-thinking perspective one would expect from a genuinely conservative political party. And we have also seen it reflected in more recent platforms.

The 1988 GOP platform quoted Roosevelt and cited the party’s “long and honored tradition of preserving our nation’s natural resources and environment.” It called safeguarding “our God-given resources” a shared responsibility and stated, “We believe public lands should not be transferred to any special group” and that “we should keep public lands open and accessible.”

As recently as 2008 the platform Scenic view from Point Imperial, Grand Canyon Nationalpledged to manage our lands in a balanced way that protects our “irreplaceable environment” and noted that the “Republican perspective” is in agreement with Theodore Roosevelt’s view that the conservation of the nation’s natural resources is our most fundamental challenge.

Contrast the respect for our natural heritage, ethic of stewardship and commitment to balance reflected in those platforms — which according to polls is consistent with the views and values of most Republicans — with the radical anti-conservation agenda being pushed now by some within the party.

Who’s peddling this agenda?

That agenda includes, as now indicated in the 2016 platform, the wholesale transfer of our national forests, wildlife refuges and conservation lands, many of which were first protected by Theodore Roosevelt, to state and private interests.

It includes efforts in Congress to eliminate or undermine the Antiquities Act, the 110-year-old Republican-passed law that Roosevelt used to protect natural and cultural treasures like the Grand Canyon and Montezuma Castle.

It even includes an assault on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a universally popular — and conservative — program that dedicates a small portion of oil- and gas-lease revenue to land conservation.

Who is peddling this agenda within the GOP? Primarily a handful of Western lawmakers, along with Koch-funded special-interest groups like Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

They are trying to reverse more than 100 years of conservative stewardship, seize land that is the birthright of every American, and act against the long-term interest of our nation, in order to facilitate their own short-term gain. There is nothing remotely conservative about it.

Be alarmed, very alarmed

That this small faction can hijack and radicalize the Republican Party platform in such a way should alarm all Republicans who love to hunt, fish, hike or otherwise enjoy America’s great outdoors — and especially those whose livelihood depends on outdoor recreation or tourism.

The party of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan recognized the value of the nation’s public lands — its parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other conservation areas — to both present and future generations of Americans. It recognized that protecting them is, as President Reagan reminded us, “our great moral responsibility.”

Republicans who still share those values, and who want their political party to do the same, can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines.

Getting more vocal and more involved is the only way to prevent the anti-conservation agenda of a radical fringe from permanently supplanting the Republican Party’s long and storied conservation tradition.

David Jenkins is president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a national non-profit organization. Email him at djenkins@conservativestewards.org; follow on Twitter, @ConservStewards.

Arizona Heritage Alliance Newest Recipient of Summit Hut’s “Decline-A-Bag” Initiative.

13254889_10153607721256787_7433796050824527043_oEvery time you shop at Summit Hut and decline a shopping bag, they donate the cost of that bag to local outdoor organizations doing great things in our community. With help from their customers, Summit Hut has prevented over 230,000 bags from entering the waste stream and have contributed over $12,500 to local organizations since their giving back program began!   Summit Hut is happy to announce Velo\Vets. Cycling for Fun and Fitness. and the Arizona Heritage Alliance as the two newest Decline-A-Bag recipients, stop by and learn more about these fantastic organizations!  Thank you Summit Hut for supporting local outdoor organizations like the Alliance.

 

Where Does Arizona’s Lottery Revenue Go?

(Source: Arizona Republic,  July 1, 2016) – The Arizona Lottery celebrates its 35th anniversary Friday.  And while that has meant 35 years of big dreams, winning tickets and some dashed hopes, it has also meant 35 years of increased revenue flowing into the state coffers.

Since  the Arizona Lottery’s launch on July 1, 1981, its sales revenue has totaled $11 billion, with nearly $3.5 billion of that directed back into state funds and programs. While a majority — and growing — portion of that money has gone into the general fund where the governor and Legislature canThis was the first Arizona Lottery ticket. spend it as they choose, about $1.8 billion has been returned to Arizona communities through grants and programs that help people who are homeless, victims of domestic abuse and children in the foster care system.

“Whenever you hear lottery, people always think about jackpots and what they’re going to do with the dollars,” lottery executive director Gregory Edgar said. “But for us, it’s drilling into the numbers and seeing the impact we can have in our community. The investment of $3.5 billion over 35 years is a pretty significant impact.

Changing agendas

  • 1980: Arizona voters approved the creation of the Arizona Lottery by a narrow margin. Ballot literature promised proceeds would “pay for law enforcement, health services, education and other vital programs.” But the original proposition wording required only that at least 30 percent of revenue go into the general fund.
  • 1990: Voters required that $20 million in lottery revenue a year go into heritage funds for Arizona State Parks and the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
  • 1993: Lawmakers required up to $23 million a year in lottery revenue to be put into a fund for local transit projects and up to $7.6 million a year to be divided among counties.
  • 1996: Voters required that $17 million in revenue be spent annually on specific health and social-service programs, including teen-pregnancy prevention, food assistance for infants and mothers, and disease research.
  • 2010: The Legislature borrowed against future lottery revenue, eliminated allocations to the counties and essentially cut in half lottery allocations to both the transportation fund and the heritage funds, sweeping nearly an extra $30 million a year into the general fund.
  • 2015: The Legislature allocated $900,000 a year in lottery revenue to the Internet Crimes Against Children Enforcement Fund, $100,000 to the Victims’ Rights Enforcement Fund and up to $160,000 a year to the tribal college dual enrollment program.

Where the money really goes.

An Arizona Republic analysis of 35 years of Arizona Lottery revenue and disbursements found that about $1.8 billion in lottery revenue has gone to the specific programs voters and lawmakers designated.

Local transportation projects got $782 million; economic development efforts got $201 million; the Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund, which supports outdoor recreation and protects critical wildlife, got $384 million; health and welfare programs like teen-pregnancy prevention and food assistance for children and mothers got $219 million; the Court Appointed Special Advocates program for foster children got $39 million; homeless shelters got $8 million; a state program for problem gamblers got $3.6 million; and a program to help law-enforcement agencies fight internet crimes against children got $2 million.

“The dollars touch every corner of the state,” Edgar said. “My dream as director would be that every time someone puts down that dollar, they’ve got the thought that I’m having some fun playing a game but also having some impact in our community.” As annual lottery revenue has grown over the years, the money allocated to these programs has remained relatively stagnant due to limits the Legislature and voters set.

Transportation programs got less in 2015 than they did in 1982. Counties for years got $7.6 million a year, but since 2011 have gotten nothing. The Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund got $10 million in 2015, compared with the $20 million a year it got during the 1990s and 2000s. Programs for economic development, health and welfare, foster-care advocates, homeless and gambling addiction have remained stagnant for decades.  The real winner in Arizona’s lottery game has been the general fund

Who really controls the money?

The lottery, overseen by a five-member, governor-appointed commission and an executive director, controls the marketing. But it’s the Legislature that has taken control of where the revenue is allocated.

As lottery revenue has grown and disbursements to specific programs have shrunk or remained stagnant, the Legislature has directed more money into the state’s general fund, where it is impossible to track how specific dollars are spent. That revenue might have gone to schools and public-welfare programs as lawmakers promised and the Lottery markets on its website, or it might have gone to private prisons and lawmaker pensions.

The general fund over the past 35 years has received $1.7 billion.  In fiscal 2015, $72 million — 9.7 percent of the lottery’s $750 million in annual revenue — went directly to programs touted to voters. Another $103 million went into the general fund. That compares with 19 percent going to designated programs in both 2005 and 1995.  Before the recession, the general fund received about $30 million a year. Over the past several years, the annual allocation has topped $100 million. This year, that trend is expected to continue.

Our Turn: Lawmakers are Raiding Parks (Again)

PNI 0712 hike wenima.jpg[Source: Arizona Republic,  February 29, 2016] –Wildlife’s political life seems to have come full circle since 1990 when by a 2-to-1 margin Arizona’s voters gave us the Heritage Fund, $20 million from the Lottery to be spent solely for Arizona’s parks and wildlife.

Half of the money was given in public trust to the Arizona State Parks Board, to support and manage Arizona’s park system. This money was taken by the Legislature in 2010 for budget balancing.

SERIES: Arizonans love state parks, lawmakers don’t

The other half of this money was given by the people to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, again in public trust, to administer on behalf of Arizona’s wildlife. Twenty-four percent of this money was dedicated exclusively for acquisition of habitat for the benefit and conservation of sensitive wildlife species. Over the past 25 years, Game and Fish commissioners battled hard to protect those funds, especially the Acquisition Fund.

All past commissions believed that these funds — they amount to about $2.4 million a year — needed to be protected at all cost. After all, this fund was one of the crown jewels of the Heritage Voter Initiative. In the state parks half, there was $1.8 million available for such wonders as Kartchner Caverns, the San Rafael Ranch and the Sonoita Creek Natural Area. Such purchases are no longer possible following the legislative sweep.

RELATED: Parks experiencing record visitors

The acquisitions of Sipes White Mountain Ranch, White Water Draw, Wenima and other similar properties resulted from careful spending of Game and Fish’s funds. Now, sadly, those funds are in serious jeopardy.

In this legislative session, the commission has proposed Senate Bill 1361, which would deplete the acquisition fund by up to 50 percent to pay for operations and maintenance of the 16 properties it has acquired. Yes, operations and maintenance are important when you buy property, but it takes a good, full public process — not a legislative sweep — to help solve that problem.

In 2014, the commission made a good start by appointing the Heritage Working Group to study and make recommendations for these solutions. This group studied for months. It made recommendations, lengthy ones, which are now either being misrepresented or ignored altogether.

Among other things, the group recommended that 5 percent of the acquisition fund could be moved (with more public input) to the greater part of the Heritage Fund where operations and maintenance are in statute already. That’s 5 percent, not 50 percent, and with more public process.

MORE: Top 10 state and national parks in Arizona

After all, this is not the commission’s money — it is the people’s money. The voters created this fund and directed the commission, as public trustees, to spend it in a specific manner.

Is this concept important anymore? It is now up to the people to speak up and stop this latest – the 40th, we think – raid of the Heritage Fund. If you value the Heritage Fund and its importance to Arizona’s wildlife, please make your voices heard as the bill, now in the Senate, moves through the Legislature.

Bill McLean, Beth Woodin, and Bob Hernbrode are former members of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. Woodin is the president of the Board of the Arizona Heritage Alliance, and Hernbrode is vice president of the Tucson Audubon Board and a biologist. (Photo: Mare Czinar/Special for The Republic)