Hands off the Heritage Fund, lawmakers

[Source: Arizona Republic Editorial Board] – Lawmakers, show some respect for voters.

In 1990, Arizonans overwhelmingly approved the Heritage Fund, directing $10 million a year in Lottery revenue each to the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Parks Department. This reflected a deep commitment to some of Arizona’s greatest resources: a rich history, diverse wildlife and dazzling natural landscapes.

The Legislature took the state parks’ share during the recession, and has unwisely rejected a number of efforts to restore that funding.

Now some of the Game and Fish share is at risk.

A portion of Game and Fish Heritage money is supposed to be spent on acquisition of land as habitat for threatened and endangered species. A strike-everything amendment to a House-passed bill would allow it to be used for operation and maintenance.

This goes against the “heart and soul” of what voters intended when they passed the Heritage initiative, says Beth Woodin, member of the Arizona Heritage Alliance and former Game and Fish commissioner.

What’s more, it’s sneaky.

This is a stealth effort to do something the public probably would not approve.

To that point, the altered bill was held in a Senate committee last week after it began to attract attention and opposition. It should disappear entirely.

If the Game and Fish department needs more money, let it ask for the funding. Then invite the Heritage Alliance and others who respect the spirit of this voter-approved law to be part of a discussion about what changes make sense.