New Study Shows Outdoor Recreation Key To 87,000 Arizona Jobs

[Source: Valley Forward, 5-06-2011] – Arizona Businesses, Outdoor Recreation Groups Say New Figures Show Why Lawmakers Should Protect Wilderness and Tourism Initiatives

 More than 87,000Arizonajobs and $371 million in state tax revenues are supported by “human-powered recreation” such as hiking, mountain biking and camping, according to a new study commissioned by the Access Fund, a national climbing advocacy organization.

The report from two Arizona economists, both Arizona State University alumni, shows that legislative efforts to cut funding for state and national parks and land preservation, which support human-powered recreation, could put greater pressure onArizona’s hospitality industry and rural areas, which both depend on outdoor adventurers.

“Outdoor recreation is critical toArizona’s hospitality and tourism economy,” said Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward Association, a 42-year old environmental public interest organization that counts many ofArizona’s largest corporations, small businesses and government agencies as members. “Our elected leaders must understand thatArizona’s recreation areas do more than fuel healthy lifestyles – they fuel our economy. Cutting our investment in state and national lands puts the brakes on any economic recovery here inArizona.”

 Specifically, the study shows:
·         38 percent of human-powered recreation outings result in an overnight stay.
·         Human-powered recreation produces $5.3 billion in annual retail sales inArizonaand generates nearly $371 million in state tax revenue.
·         Spending on human-powered recreation activities is responsible for 12 percent ofArizona’s total retail economy.
·         Human-powered recreation directly suports nearly 87,000Arizonajobs, and indirectly supports another 100,000 jobs. 

“We know that climbers, hikers, bikers and boaters leave an important economic impact on the local economy, but we wanted to be able to quantify that impact as much as possible,” said Brady Robinson, executive director of the Access Fund.

 Will Cobb, who heads the Northern Arizona Climbers Coalition, regularly sees the impact of outdoor recreation on local economies. “When someone takes their family or friends to a national park or recreation area in Arizona, they stay at local hotels, eat at local restaurants, and spend money with local gas stations and retailers—to say nothing of the money they spend with tourism and outfitting businesses,” he said.

Several efforts at the state and federal level threaten Arizona’s tourism industry, but none more directly than potential cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Some in Congress aim to drastically cut the 40-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides for local communities to use federal resources to preserve outdoor recreation areas for hiking, fishing, biking and other outdoor activities. LWCF uses no federal discretionary dollars and is deficit-neutral; the LWCF has been funded entirely by oil and gas royalties since its implementation. Cuts to LWCF would not reduce the federal deficit, but would be damaging toArizona’s tourism industry.

The LWCF helps fund state projects submitted and suggested by the State ofArizona, relying on “local control” for development and implementation plans. Specifically, the LWCF includes several current and upcoming projects:
·         The 2011 federal budget includes more than $13 million for sixArizonarecreation projects, including the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument and thePetrified Forest National Park.
·         The 2012 federal budget includes nearly $8 million forArizonaprojects including Shield Ranch and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
·         Past LWCF projects include the Phoenix Metro Area Bikeway Development, bicycle trail developments inFlagstaff, the Scottsdale City Bikeways, the Tempe Sports Complex, the Municipal Golf Course in Casa Grande and Prescott CityPark.

 On the heels of the release of this new economic study, Arizona’s small business owners—many of whom rely on human-powered recreation—are asking Arizona’s elected officials to protect tourism-related jobs. To obtain a copy of the full report, click here.

 ABOUT VALLEY FORWARD Valley Forward has been bringing business and civic leaders together for more than four decades to convene thoughtful public dialogue on regional issues and to improve the environment and sustainability of Valley communities. The organization is now taking its mission statewide through an Arizona Forward initiative.

 ABOUT THE ACCESS FUND The Access Fund is a national advocacy organization that keeps U.S.climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Now celebrating its 20th year, the Access Fund supports and represents over 2.3 million climbers nationwide.

Proposition 301 divert conservation money

[Source: Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic]

Editor’s note: This story is the ninth in a series explaining the 10 propositions that will appear on the Nov. 2 general-election ballot.

PROPOSITION 301: Land Conservation Fund

This ballot measure seeks voter approval to take the remaining balance in the state Land Conservation Fund and redirect it to the state general fund.

BACKGROUND:

Voters in 1998 approved the Growing Smarter Act, which requires the state to allocate $20 million a year from the general fund into a land-conservation fund to shore up state preservation efforts.

The money is available for 11 years; the final year ends June 30, 2011. There is $122.9 million in the fund, although grant applications from Phoenix, Scottsdale and Coconino County, if awarded, would leave the fund with about $50 million.

The Legislature sent Prop. 301 to the ballot as it looks for money to help balance the state budget, which has been running a deficit. The deficit for the current year is $825 million.

Voter approval is needed to transfer this money because the Land Conservation Fund is protected from legislative interference.

SUPPORTERS:

GOP lawmakers and the Arizona Tax Research Association.

PRO ARGUMENTS:

Proponents argue that the money is needed to help balance the state budget, and that need is greater than land conservation. Without the transfer, the Legislature will have to find $123 million elsewhere, such as through cuts, one-time budget gimmicks or possibly tax hikes.

OPPONENTS:

The Arizona Education Association, Sierra Club, Sonoran Institute, McDowell Sonoran Conservancy and Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection.

CON ARGUMENTS:

Opponents paint Prop. 301 as a raid by the Legislature that ignores the voters’ will to devote money to land conservation. They argue that there are long-term benefits to preserving open space, ranging from increased quality of life to enhancing the value of state trust land.

Sources:
  • State of Arizona publicity pamphlet for the Nov. 2 election
  • Arizona State Land Department
  • Arizona State Parks Department, grant applications,
  • Arizona Legislature,
  • Joint Legislative Budget Committee
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Prop 301 pits reeling state budget against preserving open space

[Source: Arizona Capitol Times.  Article by Rebecca McClay, Cronkite News Service]

Sandy Bahr (Cronkite News Service Photo by Rebecca L. McClay)

Sandy Bahr envisions this expanse of land near the McDowell Mountains remaining just as it is: a picturesque scene of large saguaros and desert brush.

Thanks to $23 million from a fund Arizona voters created in 1998 to preserve open spaces, Scottsdale plans to add about 2,000 acres of state trust land here to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. To Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, it’s money well spent.

But it could be one of the last such purchases receiving money from the Growing Smarter fund if voters approve a ballot measure in November.

The Legislature referred Proposition 301, also called the Land Conservation Fund Transfer, to have voters decide whether $123.5 million in state funds will be kept for preservation projects or siphoned into the general fund to balance the budget.

Bahr is among those opposing the measure, saying money for buying state trust land should stay intact.

“By redirecting these dollars, they hurt the local communities that were trying to conserve the land and they hurt conservation all over the state,” Bahr said. “They should keep their hands off it.”

It’s one of two proposals on the Nov. 2 ballot in which voters will have a direct say in how to balance the state’s fiscal 2011 budget, which took effect July 1.

The budget passed based on the assumption that voters would approve both Proposition 301 and Proposition 302, which would eliminate the First Things First early childhood health and development program. State law requires voter approval because voters created both programs.

Bahr said other measures like closing tax loopholes or scaling back spending in other departments are her preferred alternatives to balancing the budget.

Proponents of eliminating the Land Conservation Fund say the consequences of not balancing the budget – including the state receiving a downgrade on its debt rating from Moody’s Investors Service – are too severe to ignore. The downgrade from a Aa2 to Aa3 in July makes it more expensive for the government to borrow money.

“We can’t afford it,” said Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, who called the founding of the fund “well intended.”
“We need the money many other places,” he said. “Buying open space is not high on the list of priorities.”

Rep. Rick Murphy, R-Glendale, said Arizona faces an unprecedented budget crisis.

“It is irresponsible to cut true necessities like public safety or basic K-12 education while continuing to spend money on non-essentials, no matter how good or important they might be,” Murphy said in an e-mail interview.

The Land Conservation Fund is administered by the Arizona State Parks Board. The money is allocated to communities on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis to purchase state trust land.

Proposition 301 opponents argue that the money, the only state funding source for land preservation, is critical for preserving the environment in the face of growth. They argue that unlike Proposition 302, Proposition 301 doesn’t have a provision that would require money taken from the fund to be used for a similar purpose.

Scottsdale has already received $3.3 million from the fund to help purchase a 400-acre parcel of land in the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, said Scottsdale Preserve Director Kroy Ekblaw, who didn’t take a position on the proposition.

“We have additional land we would like to acquire,” Ekblaw said. “If the revenue was available, we would certainly like to take advantage.”

Scottsdale could still purchase more land but not as much as if it had the matching funds, Ekblaw said.

Phoenix and Coconino County have also already applied to purchase state trust land parcels. According to a report from Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, the applications could come to a halt if the measure passes.

Facts about Proposition 301 vote:

  • Key Provision: Would transfer to the general fund $123.5 million from Land Conservation Fund voters created in 1998 to preserve open spaces.
  • Trend: Along with Proposition 302, dealing with the First Things First early childhood development program, it would reallocate funds to shore up the state budget.
  • The Fund: Matches municipalities’ land conservation efforts dollar-for-dollar to purchase state trust land.
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