Celebrate Arizona’s Centennial Through Conservation!

More than 100 Conservation Advocates Meet with State Legislators for Environmental Day at the Capitol.

January 31, 2012, Phoenix, AZToday at the Arizona State Capitol, more than 100 people from 25 different legislative districts and representing more than 20 groups met with their state legislators in support of environmental protection and conservation programs.

Volunteer advocates asked legislators to support adequate funding for State Parks and to specifically support legislation sponsored by Representative Karen Fann (R-1) that allows parks to keep revenue generated from the parks to support the park system.

“Our state parks deserve to be open, public, and keep the money they earn at the gate from visitors, said Bret Fanshaw with Environment Arizona.  “We hope the legislature will pass Representative Fann’s bill in good faith that state parks will be protected in this year’s budget and into the future.”

Conservation of state trust lands has long been a key priority for most Arizona conservation groups. While there is no comprehensive measure on the table to do that, advocates asked legislators to support conserving state trust lands and to support the bills being promoted by Senator John Nelson (R-10) to facilitate limited and transparent land exchanges for better management of state trust lands and public lands. They asked the legislators to refrain from trying to swipe the last of the Land Conservation Fund, a voter-protected fund that supports conservation of state trust lands and for which voters again expressed support on the 2010 ballot.

“We need to preserve certain state trust lands to save their natural resources, open spaces, wildlife habitat, and historic/geologic features so that our communities now and in the future have those treasures,” said Ann Hutchinson, Executive Vice President, North Country Conservancy – Daisy Mountain Preservation Effort. “The values go way beyond the obvious beauty of the land and the opportunities to recreate. The preserved open spaces have economic value. Businesses and residents look to preserves and parks to raise and maintain a high quality of life. Homes and land surrounding parks and preserves have higher value.”

Keeping funding for the Arizona Water Protection Fund was also a key issue for many advocates. The Arizona Water Protection Fund is the only dedicated funding source to protect and restore riparian habitats in Arizona. In 2011, the Legislature voted to permanently eliminate the general fund appropriation for the program.

Also on the priority list for advocates was a measure sponsored by Representative Steve Farley (D-28) that reinstates both the Heritage Fund and the Local Transportation Assistance Fund, which helps to fund transit. Prior to the Legislature’s elimination of the State Parks Heritage Fund as part of the FY2011 budget, these dollars helped fund natural areas, historic preservation, and local and regional park programs.

“An additional measure, HCR 2047, sponsored by Representative Russ Jones, is a referral to the voters for the 2012 election and would restore the language and funding of the Parks’ side of the Heritage Fund,” said Janice Miano, Director of the Arizona Heritage Alliance. “With the success of either measure, the voters’ Heritage Fund would once again be whole and functioning, providing countless jobs, community pride, and potential for increased tourism to both city and rural areas.”

Group leaders expressed concerns about the plethora of anti-environmental legislation, much of it aimed at ignoring or weakening federal environmental laws and land protections. Among them are bills that seek to control national forests and other public lands, measures whose intent is to assert total control of air and water and thus ignore the provisions of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.

“We need our state legislature and governor to step up to strengthen Arizona’s environmental protection laws, rather than seek to ignore or weaken the safety nets for clean air and clean water, as well as our endangered plants and animals,” said Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Without the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, there would be few, if any, protections for these important resources.”

Arizona Heritage Alliance named 2011 Conservation Organization of the Year by Arizona Game & Fish

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission met on October 14, 2011 to select award recipients for their Annual Commission Awards. The Arizona Heritage Alliance was selected by the Commission to receive the 2011 Conservation Organization of the Year Award for its commitment and efforts in protecting, preserving and enhancing the Arizona Heritage Fund and its objectives.

The award will be presented at the Commission’s Annual Awards Banquet, which will be held on Saturday, January 14, 2012 at the Carefree Resort & Conference Center.

Arizona Forward Coalition has promising start

[Source: Arizona Republic Editorial] – Just when the polarization and partisanship inArizonaare becoming as toxic as rattlesnake venom, a new coalition has come forward to find collaborative solutions to maintain our quality of life. Arizona Forward brings together business, utilities, conservation advocates, education interests and civic groups. The charter members range from Sundt Construction to the Nature Conservancy. These aren’t natural allies. But they have a common interest in the viability of Arizona as a place to live and work. They all recognize that our state must find the right balance between economic growth and a healthy, sustainable environment.

The statewide group is an expanded version of Valley Forward Association, which has promoted dialogue and advanced critical projects in the Phoenix metro area for 42 years. It has helped shape our communities with support for open space, recreational areas, freeways and light rail. It conceived the “pedestrian freeway,” a regional system of trails and parks for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Arizona Forward will start off by focusing on the Sun Corridor, thePhoenix-to-Tucson”mega-region” that is home to eight of 10 Arizonans. As Arizona heads into its second century, we will increasingly need this broader perspective to solve problems. Right now, we have a string of communities more likely to spar than recognize their common interests. Here’s an opportunity to create and refine the identity of the Sun Corridor. That alone can be a strong marketing tool.

The challenges that Arizona Forward expects to tackle include land-use planning, transportation, air quality, renewable energy, water and natural areas. In other words, issues where any action requires negotiation and consensus-building. Like its Valley counterpart, Arizona Forward aims to raise awareness of environmental issues and serve as a technical resource. As part of its first project, the organization commissioned a poll about our state’s natural assets. The results showed a big knowledge gap. While Arizonans overwhelmingly believe that parks and open space are essential to tourism (93 percent in the poll), few of us have a strong grasp of how parks are actually funded (18 percent). Arizona Forward is filling that gap with an easy-to-read fact-filled report, Why Parks and Open Space Matter: The Economics of Arizona‘s Natural Assets.”

Readers aren’t left with a bunch of numbers and no idea of what to do with them. Without endorsing any specific plan, Arizona Forward suggests a list of actions to develop a sustainable financial base.This is important groundwork for urgent issues, including the future of Arizona State Parks, federal funding for national monuments and state-trust-land reform.

Arizona Forward is a welcome new player, and its fast start is encouraging.

Accomplishments of the Arizona Heritage Alliance 2010-2011

  • In the spring of 2009 and again in 2010, we arranged a trip to the Vermilion Cliffs in Marble Canyon to spend time with a biologist from the Peregrine Fund to get an up close and personal glimpse of the free flying California Condors, an Arizona Heritage Fund project.

 

  • In spring 2010, we were invited by the Director of the Arizona Lottery to assist with the reauthorization of the Lottery at the Legislature. We also worked with the League of Arizona Cities and Towns in this endeavor.

 

  • Also in 2010, in collaboration with the film’s producers, we organized screenings of the documentary, Postcards From The Parks, in Flagstaff, Tempe and Tucson. The film’s goal is to spread the word about the challenges of our State Parks, and to encourage other Arizonans who care about history, our natural treasures, and the outdoors to get involved. After the film’s viewing at these three a facilitated discussion and question and answer period will be was led by Vincent Murray, a historian with Arizona Historical Research, in cooperation with the filmmakers and other parks advocates.  An invitation to all local elected officials was made to these events. They were free and open to the public.

 

  • We also arranged to have the film shown at the 2010 Arizona Preservation Foundation Conference in Flagstaff; the 2010 Arizona Highways Travel Show in Phoenix and the 2010 Arizona Parks and Recreation Association Conference in Paradise Valley.

 

  • In 2011, we were instrumental in getting the strike-everything amendment, HB2425 – Heritage Fund; Reinstatement, introduced in the House of Representatives. This Bill would put the State Parks Heritage Fund back into statute. The Bill passed unanimously out of the Agriculture & Water Committee.

 

  • We continue to expand partnerships with historic preservation groups, Arizona League of Cities and Towns and other appropriate organizations.