[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.