Citizens to Save Arizona’s Natural Resources Makes Final Push to Qualify for 2012 November Ballot

[Source: Sedona.biz] – The Citizens to Save Arizona’s Natural Resources is a citizen-led initiative with over 200 volunteers across the state collecting signatures to qualify for this November’s ballot. Recent polling shows over 80% of Arizonans support the initiative and the funding it generates to ensure that Arizona State Parks is not in danger of shutting down due to lack of resources. The campaign currently has over 80,000 signatures in hand but needs an additional 100,000 signatures by early July to qualify for the ballot.

“We are confident voters will overwhelmingly pass the initiative this November but our true battle is qualifying for the ballot,” said Bill Meek, campaign spokesperson and longtime Arizona natural resources civic leader. “This initiative is critical to our state and I strongly encourage all Arizonans to sign the petition and visit aznaturalresources.org to make a donation to the campaign to help us hire professional signature gatherers to get us over the finish line in the short time remaining.”

There is also a 501(c)4 organization called Outdoors Arizona Now that is assisting the effort and contributions can be mailed to this social welfare organization at 2409 E. Solano Drive Phoenix, AZ 85016.

Polling shows only 23 percent of Arizonans believe funding for state parks is sufficient. “California is currently planning on closing 70 parks across the state and we cannot allow massive park closures to happen in Arizona,” added Meek. Since 2009 the Arizona State Legislature has transferred away from Arizona State Parks more than $15 million of the park system’s earned income (gate fees, gift shop proceeds, donations, and reservation surcharge funds.)

The ballot initiative provides that all Arizona schoolchildren, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, receive free admission to Arizona State Parks when part of a school trip. 90% of likely Arizona voters support this provision of the ballot measure.

It also protects Arizona State Parks funds and the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Heritage Fund allocation from legislative fund sweeps and re-establishes the Arizona State Parks annual $10 million Heritage grant program for public and non-profit organizations. Annually, Arizonans who register their non-commercial motor vehicles will have the option of making a voluntary $14 per vehicle donation to help fund this measure.

Meek added, “We need to act now. This is a legacy campaign for all generations in Arizona’s centennial year. Help Arizona, its children, and its natural resources now.”

Arizona State Park’s funding would be protected by voters

The Arizona Natural Resources Act would allow our state parks to keep entry fees and other park generated monies. In the past three years, the legislature swept $15 million dollars of entry fees from the park’s budget to fill other state budget shortfalls. “We were lucky this year,” said Park’s Board member Larry Landry.  “The Legislature didn’t steal any of our money for the first time since 2009.”

Landry and the six other board volunteers voted unanimously to support the Arizona Natural Resources Act, which would also give Arizona drivers an opportunity to donate $14 each year when they renew their vehicle tags.  That money would allow the state’s students grade 12 and under to enter state parks for free.  The Act would also protect $10 million in lottery money each year earmarked for the state Game and Fish Department.

Those gathering signatures for the act include ASU student Andrew Atallah, who said he has fond memories of going to the Tonto Natural Bridge as a youngster.  Atallah said even though Arizona was one of the last states to set up a park system, he doesn’t want it to be the first to lose it’s parks.

[Source: Steve Bodinet, azfamily.com] -Volunteers will be collecting signatures at the entrances to many state parks, trail heads, coffee shops and sporting good stores throughout the state.  State Parks Foundation Executive Director Cristie Statler said they won’t give up on the voter protection if enough signatures aren’t gathered this year, but will keep pressing the legislature to let the parks keep the money they earn.

Arizona parks backers push for November ballot measure

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] – Backers of a proposed state ballot measure to protect state parks from future budget raids say they are moving forward with their effort to get on the November ballot. The Arizona Natural Resources Protection Act also would offer schoolchildren free admission to state parks and would allocate a portion of automobile taxes to state parks in the budget. The money would go toward operations, repairs and improvements.The measure needs to collect 172,800 voter petition signatures by July 5 to get on the November ballot.

Backers of the plan were considering waiting until the 2014 election to make the push, but Larry Landry, a partner with lobbying firm Landry Creedon & Associates Inc., said they are opting “to move full steam ahead” with the signature-gathering effort and try to meet the deadline.

Landry said the measure polls well with voters. The Arizona Legislature has raided or swept $15 million from parks and conservation funds and budgets since 2009 and passed tax cuts as it dealt with overall budget shortfalls.

Parks measure advocates are reaching out to environmental, education, business and tourism groups touting the state parks’ contribution to the Arizona economy, especially through tourism. Major business and tourism groups contacted, including the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Arizona Business and Education Coalition, National Federation of Independent Businessand Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, said they don’t have an official stance on the measure.

State Parks petitions hit the street

[Source: Steve Ayers, Camp Verde Bugle] – The move to put an initiative on the November ballot that supporters hope will stabilize and sustain Arizona’s 27 state parks, is underway. It is known as the Arizona Natural Resources Protection Act. With five state parks located in the Verde Valley, along with the Verde River Greenway, the initiative is getting plenty of support locally.

“This has everything to do with the value of state parks to the Verde Valley and to Yavapai County,” says Chip Norton, president of the Friends of the Verde River Greenway. “It means a lot to our communities and the opportunities it provides for school kids as well as the residents. The tourism component is really big. The amount of money it brings into the valley is pretty phenomenal. They have been hanging on the edge for too long, forcing local communities to keep them going.” Norton and the friends group launched the petition drive at a meeting last Thursday, at a meeting in Cottonwood.

If the initiative makes the ballot and it passes, it would fund the operations of Arizona State Parks as well as the Heritage Fund, which was also raided by the Legislature, with a $14 donation attached to annual vehicle registration. The charge would be automatically added to the registration cost, but vehicle owners could opt out. Supporters hope it will raise $30 million a year. The initiative protects all money donated to the fund from legislative sweeps and re-establishes the Arizona State Parks grant program, which pays for municipal and nonprofit recreation projects across the state. It also provides for free admission to state parks for school-age children when on school sanctioned field trips and sets aside at least one day every year in which anyone could come to a state park for free.

The initiative was launched by the Arizona State Parks Foundation after House Bill 2362, which overwhelmingly passed both the house and Senate, was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer. “We have been watching for some time and realized there was growing support for long-term support and a long term funding mechanism of some sort. So we began forming a coalition,” says ASPF Director Christy Statler. “The straw that broke the camel’s back was the governor’s veto. And no legislator wanted to stick their neck out for a referral to the voters, so we mobilized and are moving forward with the Arizona Natural Resources Act.”

Volunteers will be circulating petitions around the valley over the next few weeks. To get on the ballot, 175,000 signatures will need to be collected statewide by the July 5 deadline.