Commentary: Stewardship is the responsibility of every Arizonan

[Commentary by Thom Hulen, Tempe, Arizona Heritage Alliance Board Member] — Stewardship can be defined as the individual’s responsibility to manage his life and property with proper regard to the rights of others and I believe this is what Arizona voters intended when the Heritage Fund was created in 1990. Arizonans realized that they could not take for granted the rich natural and cultural heritage bestowed upon them while Arizona continues to grow.

Since I was old enough to leave the house and wonder through Phoenix’s South Mountain Park on my own I have joyously marveled at the grandeur of the Sonoran Desert and the ancient Hohokam people who left their mark carved onto the boulders lining the canyons dissecting our nation’s largest city park. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of this gift. Then as well has today I think about the men and women who had the foresight to realize that if we do not take a role in our planet’s stewardship what we hold dear may not endure. We can love something to death through use, ignorance, and neglect.

The men and women who strove to create parks, preserves, museums and to protect important prehistoric and historic sites for all generations of people had the compassion and foresight to know if they stood by and did nothing it would someday be too late. When I see condors soaring over the Grand Canyon, photograph the petroglphs at Lyman Lake State Park, wander through the ruins at Homolovi Ruins State Park, or learn about desert plants at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, I not only think about the stewardship of the people who worked hard to preserve bits of our heritage, I also think of the thousands of Arizonans who voted to make the Heritage Fund a reality.

Unfortunately many Arizona legislators have not taken their role as stewards of our state’s natural and cultural legacy seriously and on numerous occasions have sought to ignore the will of the people by failing to adequately fund Arizona State Parks and the Arizona Game and Fish Department though appropriation and to raid the Heritage Fund to pay for other state expenses.

I agreed to join the Alliance’s board of directors because I feel a strong sense of stewardship of our state’s natural and cultural heritage and I believe that the voter’s intension in passing the Heritage Fund was acknowledgment of our responsibility to protect this heritage through our actions and not just sentiments. The Heritage Fund is all about stewardship and we all know that it takes more than hard work and commitment — it takes money to make stewardship happen. My intension for serving on the board is simple. I want to see the Heritage Fund protected, as the voters intended, and see it grow so that present and future generations will have the chance to appreciate Arizona’s wealth of natural and cultural heritage.

President’s Message, May 2008

We have been so fortunate the past few years.  Arizona’s economy has been robust without any budget shortfalls.  That has made the State Legislature much less difficult to deal with regards to fully funded Heritage Fund projects.  The Morrison Institute, in a 2007 study of ideas and public policies for livability and competitiveness, said, “The Heritage Fund stands out in part because of the diversity of programs it supports.  Funds have been used to maintain trails, acquire and maintain habitat for endangered species, preserve historic and archeological sites, create and improve community and state parks, and provide environmental education.”

The Arizona Heritage Alliance Board has been busy with the visionary project of a more protected and additive funding concept for both Arizona State Parks and Arizona Game and Fish.  We have engaged a public dialogue, with the goal of a consensus among the parties.  While the public working group recently postponed any voter initiative effort during the 2008 election cycle, we at the Arizona Heritage Alliance are committed to remain the center to conversations within the conservation, preservation, and recreation communities about what will work for the future.  It seems at present all parties agree a number of threats exist to our quality of life, but no clear path to address these concerns has developed.  All agree, however, that continued and frequent discourse with all parties needs to happen.

This same working group designed a simple pledge for our state lawmakers.  Check and see who has signed on.  This signed pledge on behalf of the Heritage Fund is an investment in safe playground equipment for our children; new parks and trails; the reintroduction of endangered species into Arizona; the restoration of historic buildings; and the conservation of wild and open spaces and critical habitat for wildlife.

If your legislators have not signed our pledge, ask them to do so.  If they have signed on, thank them for helping preserve Arizona’s natural, cultural, and recreational resources.  These are the things which make Arizona such a wonderful place to live, work, and play.

Best wishes to all,

Don Farmer