Arizona Conservationists: Save Our National Monuments

Source:  By William Thornton and Tom Hanagan, Special to the Arizona Daily StarJune 4, 2017 

The president’s executive order to review national monuments could recommend downsizing or abolishing monuments over 100,000 acres designated since 1996. A brief history of the Antiquities Act and case study from Ironwood Forest in our own backyard might clear up some misconceptions.

Signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906, the Antiquities Act gives the president authority to, by proclamation, create national monuments from public lands to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features. The law was necessary after decades of looting and desecration at Native American sites such as Chaco Canyon. Roosevelt went on to designate 18 national monuments. Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest in Arizona have been upgraded to National Park status.

National Monuments are owned by the American people.  Each of Roosevelt’s successors, Democrat or BighornSheep1FromAZGF-300x200Republican, has used the Antiquities Act to protect lands in the public domain. Opponents of new national monuments have characterized the process as “arbitrary, capricious” and subject to manipulation by “tree huggers” who draw lines on a map, and before you know it, the public is “locked out” and economic activity comes to a screeching halt.

In reality a monument proposal must make a compelling case that the area contains natural or cultural features worthy of protection. For Ironwood Forest these features include: the only surviving indigenous herd of desert bighorn sheep in the Tucson area, the largest stand of desert ironwood trees, numerous archaeological sites and critical habitat for an endangered cactus.

What does monument designation mean for Ironwood Forest?

DSCN0353-585x438Monument land has benefited from thousands of hours of hands-on work by hundreds of volunteers from the Friends of Ironwood Forest, Arizona Native Plant Society, Bighorn Sheep Society, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Sierra Club and many others. Invasive buffelgrass is one of the most serious threats to our Sonoran Desert. A coordinated effort to control it is making progress, but it may not have been possible without monument designation.

Free access is available with restrictions deemed necessary to protect the resource. Hunting is permitted subject to regulation by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish. Privately owned parcels within the monument remain available for use subject to local zoning laws. When funds are available, land may be purchased from willing sellers. Land has been donated, but the BLM cannot seize or force the sale of private land.

Historically, mining and ranching have been major economic activities in the area. Grazing leases on monument land remain in force and are renewable. The Pioneer Materials quarry continues to operate.

Outdoor recreation is big business in Arizona, bringing $10.6 billion in consumer spending, $787 million in state and local tax revenue, and supporting 104,000 Arizona jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Parks and monuments are a big part of the picture.

National monuments do not belong to the president or Congress. They are our lands and heritage but will remain so only if we speak up. Comments may be submitted through monumentsforall.org or regulations.gov.  Deadline is July 10. Also, please contact Senator Flake and Senator McCain and your congressperson and respectfully request that they stand up for our monuments.

William Thornton is a second-generation native Arizonan, lifelong conservationist, and outdoor enthusiast. He serves on the board of directors of the Arizona Heritage Alliance and is vice president of Friends of Ironwood Forest. Tom Hanagan is president of Friends of Ironwood Forest.

“Work with Us, Naysayers” – Opinion by Pat Madden, Chairman, Arizona Game and Fish Commission

Source:  Arizona Central, September 11, 2016

My Turn: Listening to our critics, you’d never know we invest $6 million each89ad1681-20eb-40ea-b511-5d058eaceeb2 year in Arizona to help conserve species.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department conserves and protects the state’s diverse wildlife and promotes safe, compatible outdoor recreation. That’s our mission and we have a long history of successfully managing all 800-plus wildlife species in Arizona.

Political special-interest groups that disagree with the Arizona Game and Fish Commission’s wildlife conservation mission are complaining because we don’t buy into their political agenda.

Our message to agenda-driven ideologues: Work with us.

Listening to the critics, you wouldn’t know that the Game and Fish Commission and the Department invest more than $6 million annually into projects benefiting threatened/endangered species and other non-hunted wildlife. That’s $6 million in on-the-ground conservation, improving the lives of Arizona’s wildlife. We’ll work with any group that will lend a hand.

Here are just a few success stories

Because we collaborated with a coalition of bald-eagle advocates, Arizona’s bald eagles are now plentiful enough to have been delisted from the federal Endangered Species list in 2007.  Since delisting, the breeding population has increased by 30 percent, and the average annual fledgling count has gone from 21 in the 1990s to 55 since 2010. This year, a record 65 pairs of adult eagles produced 78 hatchlings.

Endangered Sonoran pronghorn were on the brink of disappearing from the U.S. by 2002, with only 21 remaining in southwest Arizona. Active management by Game and Fish and our partners has increased Arizona’s herd to more than 350 Sonoran pronghorn, and even more in Mexico.

In 1998, there were no Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico. Since then, Game and Fish has dedicated significant staff and financial resources to bring the wolf back while working to build social tolerance in local communities.  By collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies, Arizona and New Mexico now host 97 known collared wolves and 18 packs, with 42 natural-born offspring last year alone.

We’ll work with anyone to save species.  We also put substantial resources into recovering native fish species with proactive conservation efforts that can reverse the need to list them as endangered. Since 2006, we’ve conducted 300 native fish stockings at 130 sites, helping 18 native species and fostering 112 new native fish populations.

California condors, on the brink of extinction by the early 1980s, now number nearly 430, more than half of which live wild in Arizona, Utah, California and Mexico. Their comeback got an assist from Arizona hunters who voluntarily use non-lead ammo in condor country.

Many other species — desert bighorn sheep, black-footed ferrets, Apache trout, Gould’s turkeys, Chiricahua leopard frogs, and black-tailed prairie dogs to name a few — have benefited from collaborative on-the-ground conservation. We’ve achieved successes because we work with partners who roll up their sleeves and put boots on the ground.

The department will cooperate with any group that values and works toward on-the-ground conservation. We just have difficulty with organizations that focus their resources on rhetoric-laden fundraising letters, scare tactics and litigation. Conservation, like everything in life, only happens when you do the work.

Edward “Pat” Madden is the chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. Email him at PMadden@azgfd.com.

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 legislators want to water down voter intiatives

[Source: Kellie Mejdrich,  Arizona-Sonora News Service] – State legislators want voters to scuttle the power of their own initiatives. Legislators crafted a number of constitutional amendments that subjects voter initiatives to periodic re-authorization, audits their effectiveness, subjects them to legislative appropriation and repeals certain initiatives altogether. GOP legislators say voter initiatives limit their ability to appropriate funds from a tight budget and call the process an outright threat to a “republican, smaller, form of government,” said Sen. Frank Antenori, R-Vail.

Critics call the push to water down voter initiatives a legislative intrusion into the peoples’ lawmaking process. GOP legislators tout the reforms as essential to maintaining Arizona as a state governed by a legislature, not direct democracy. Now, citizens can put laws to a vote by collecting signatures from 10 percent of the electorate—around 100,000 signatures—and change the state constitution by collecting 15 percent—around 150,000 signatures. If approved at election, the initiative becomes law and cannot be repealed or vetoed by the Legislature or the governor. That initiative remains law unless voters gather the necessary signatures to repeal the measure.

Republicans argue that reauthorization helps voters, but critics say it’s an attempt to alter fundamentally Arizona’s identity as a state. “This state would be so different if this legislature overturned the will of the people who passed these initiatives,” said Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, during a committee hearing for a bill sponsored by Antenori, which requires reauthorization of any initiative passed after 1998 that ” creates a fund for public monies, dedicates public monies to a specific purpose or otherwise affects (general fund) revenues or expenditures,” the bill language states.

Antenori’s SCR 1031 requires reauthorization of such initiatives after eight years. A similar bill, HCR 2005, is sponsored in the House by Rep. Chester Crandell, R-Heber. Crandell and Antenori will combine their bills as they approach final passage, Antenori said. The measure would push re-votes on a number of initiatives including Clean Elections, the Independent Redistricting Commission, various tobacco taxes and litigation funds used for education.

Why not let citizens who want to change an initiative propose a revote on it? It’s not that simple, legislators said. “A lot of folks aren’t able to get that done. They don’t have the resources to do it,” Antenori said. “The threshold for doing that is significantly higher, and more difficult and costly.”

Tim Hogan, executive director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, a nonprofit law firm that defends ballot initiative cases in the state, rejected that argument, adding “the legislature just doesn’t like the initiatives.” “They can come up with those kind of silly arguments. Well, it doesn’t stop people from doing initiatives. We have a ton of them all the time,” Hogan said. “If the people thought those laws were so terrible, I’m sure that somebody would do an initiative to get rid of them.”

Legislators also argue that the electorate has changed — voters die or move and new voters often do not know what initiatives are on the books. “People are uninformed,” Crandell said. “Once it becomes an initiative, and once it starts collecting the money, nobody ever goes back and looks at it again.” Hogan said that argument was glib.