Baby boomers retire here for the hiking, yet Arizona starves its parks. How smart is that?

Source:  Opinion by Linda Valdez – Arizona Republic – azcentral.com – September 17, 2018

Opinion: Arizona’s environment is an asset. Yet we are starving the state parks that provide exactly
what baby boomers say they want from us.  Arizona’s has a fast horse in the race to attract Baby Boomer retirees. But our state is starving the poor beast. Recent census figures put Arizona second only to Florida as a destination for today’s retirees, according to reporting by The Republic’s Catherine Reagor. And what is at the top of the list of what these retirees want? — Hiking. It’s the great outdoors that Baby Boomer retirees crave, and we’ve got plenty of it. But we aren’t taking care of it.

Consider:

  • The total operating budget for Arizona’s State Parks was $29 million in fiscal 2018, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. This is $15 million less than what Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute said was needed in 2009 to operate and maintain the state’s parks.
  • Since 2009, state parks have gotten no general fund money.
  • The parks don’t get to use all of the money they bring in through gate receipts and concessions. That money goes into the State Parks Revenue Fund, which reported total revenue of $20,460,700 in fiscal 2018. Only $14.4 million of it was appropriated back to the parks.
  • More than a decade ago – in 2007 – the parks had fewer visitors and more money. The fiscal 2007 parks budget was $37 million, and that included $27 million from the general fund.
  • During the recession, Arizona’s GOP-controlled Legislature stripped away $10 million a year in Heritage Fund money that had been dedicated to the parks by a 1990 citizens’  initiative. This funding, which came from the Lottery, has not been restored.
  • In 2014, then-Parks Director Bryan Martyn put a $80 million price tag on the cost of needed capital improvements in the parks – no-frills things like water lines and septic tanks.
  • Gov. Doug Ducey’s Parks Director Sue Black has faced criticism and investigations over her treatment of staff, according to reporting by The Republic’s Craig Harris. Concerns about her leadership remain but have not been resolved.

Open spaces mean economic growth

This isn’t just about the spiritual, emotional and psychological benefits nature provides to those who take the time to get out into the wide open spaces. This is about cold, hard cash. It’s about planning for an economically sustainable future. Arizona’s environment is an asset. It attracts people. That’s increasingly true as the large cohort of Baby Boomers look for retirement options that include outdoor experiences. Our State Parks include first-class natural, archaeological and historical sites. The parks need to be properly maintained to conserve the resource and give visitors a first-class experience.

It’s a National Parks problem, too

Arizona’s parks – along with Arizona’s wealth of National Parks and other federal lands – give us an edge in attracting Baby Boomer retirees who have money to spend on an outdoor lifestyle. And guess what? There’s a problem at the national level, too. The Restore Our National Parks and Public Lands Act of 2018 aims to begin spending on deferred maintenance on federal public lands. The price tag in Arizona alone is $531 million, including $330 million in needed maintenance at Grand Canyon National Park. Democratic Reps. Raul Grijalva and Kyrsten Sinema are original sponsors. Other Arizona House members signed on are Democratic Reps. Tom O’Halleran and Ruben Gallego, as well as Republicans Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko. The bill is not moving.

Arizona’s missed opportunity

Meanwhile, back in Arizona, Ducey and his Republican colleagues in our Legislature like to talk about their commitment to economic development. But they lack awareness of how to market and maintain Arizona’s natural assets. They are systematically starving the horse that can help us win the national competition for retirees who want exactly what our state parks offer.

 

Protect the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund

Special to the Arizona Daily Star by Liz Petterson – August 2, 2018

“Few of us can hope to leave a poem or a work of art to posterity; but working together or apart, we can yet save meadows, marshes, strips of seashore, and stream valleys as a green legacy for the centuries.” — Stewart Udall

Tucson-based Arizona Land and Water Trust partnered with the federal Bureau of Land Management in 2014 to add 356 protected acres to Ironwood Forest National Monument northwest of Tucson.  Home to Ironwood trees reaching over 800 years in age, the property provides steep, rocky slope habitat for desert bighorn sheep, the last endemic population in the Tucson basin. The funds for the property’s protection came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Created by Congress in 1965, and spearheaded by then Interior Secretary and former Arizona congressman Stewart Udall, Land and Water Conservation Fund was a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities — not with taxpayer dollars, but with a small portion of federal offshore drilling fees.

Now, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is set to expire on Sept. 30. It is critical that the Land and Water Conservation Fund be permanently reauthorized with full, dedicated funding. The fund is authorized to receive up to $900 million annually but over the years, more than $20 billion have been diverted elsewhere. Even so, the fund has protected land in every state over its 53-year history and supported more than 41,000 state and local park projects.

Arizona has received approximately $235 million in fund dollars, protecting places such as the Grand Canyon and Saguaro National Parks, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Tumacácori National Historical Park and San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.

In Pima County alone, the fund has contributed to more than 150 projects, including the City of Tucson’s Reid, Kennedy, Udall, Fort Lowell and Lakeside parks; a dozen school and local park playgrounds, courts, sports fields and swimming pools; Dennis Weaver Park in Oro Valley; Tucson Mountain and Arthur Pack regional parks and The Loop in Pima County; and Catalina State Park.

Arizona’s natural beauty and its recreational opportunities fuel the state’s economy. According to the Arizona Department of Tourism, 43 million people visited Arizona in 2016 and spent $21.2 billion in the state, supporting 201,000 jobs and generating $5.7 billion in wages and salaries and $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Legislation proposed in Congress to permanently reauthorize and fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, including one introduced by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, continues to have bipartisan support. A March 16 letter to leaders of the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies supporting the fund was signed by Reps. Grijalva, Kyrsten Sinema, Ruben Gallego, Tom O’Halleran and Martha McSally.

Arizona Land and Water Trust has worked with willing landowners and government agencies — BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Arizona Game and Fish, Fort Huachuca and Pima County among others — for 40 years to protect 50,000 acres of wildlife habitat and working ranches and farms in Southern Arizona for future generations.

We were honored to receive the assistance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 2014. It makes sense to use a small portion of the fees from the withdrawal of our country’s natural resources to preserve its beautiful and environmentally critical places.

Please contact your representatives and senators. Don’t let the Land and Water Conservation Fund expire.

Arizona Game and Fish Commission Honors Conservationists at Awards Banquet

Source:  Arizona Game and Fish Department Press Release – January 19, 2018

Nineteen individuals and organizations were honored at the annual Arizona Game and Fish Commission Awards Banquet on Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix. The awards recognize Arizonans who have contributed significantly to the conservation of the state’s wildlife, its outdoor heritage, and the mission of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Among those honored were Gov. Doug Ducey for State Advocate of the Year (the award was accepted on behalf of the governor by Natural Resources Policy Advisor Hunter Moore); Sen. Jeff Flake for Federal Advocate of the Year; 3TV Meteorologist Kim Quintero (one of two winners of Media of the Year); and Elizabeth (Beth) Woodin, who 

Members of the Alliance accepting the Award on behalf of Beth Woodin

served on the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in the 1990’s and was president of the Arizona Heritage Alliance. Ms. Woodin sadly passed away last week and was awarded posthumously.

 
The complete list of award winners is:

  • Award of Excellence: Lake Havasu Marine Association
  • Award of Excellence: Elizabeth Woodin
  • Youth Environmentalist of the Year: Chase Godbehere
  • Media of the Year: Kim Quintero   
  • Media of the Year: National Veterans Magazine
  • Conservation Organization of the Year: Phoenix Varmint Callers, Inc.
  • Conservationist of the Year: Clyde Weakley
  • Natural Resource Professional of the Year: Erica Stewart
  • Volunteer of the Year: Ron Adams
  • Educator of the Year: Michael Eilertsen
  • Mentor of the Year: Justin Stewart
  • Advocate of the Year – State: Gov. Doug Ducey;
  • Advocate of the Year – Federal: Sen. Jeff Flake
  • Business Partner of the Year: OneAZ Credit Union
  • Buck Appleby Hunter Education Instructor of the Year: John and Linda Vedo
  • Wildlife Habitat Steward of the Year: Double O Ranch 
  • North American Model Commissioners Award: Luke Thompson
  • Chairman’s Award: Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club​​​​​​​

Environmental Study Ranks Arizona Second Lowest Among Western States

Source:  Joshua Bowling, The Republic/azcentral.com, October 18, 2017

It found Arizona’s access to public lands and responsible energy development need improvement.