[Source: Jessica Testa, Cronkite News, 2/16/2012] – FLORENCE – To most people, these old buildings look like they’re decaying from the inside out. To Bonnie Bariola, they’re treasures, held up by century–old adobe brick and generations of hand-me-down stories. The Ceyla Long Sweeny Residence, built in 1876, is a small adobe house with manure for insulation and saguaro ribs for a roof. Bariola points to broken window, shattered by a tossed rock. A few blocks over, three dead pigeons lie just inside the entrance to the Cuen House and Butcher Shop, the first telephone exchange in Pinal County. Bariola fearlessly marches through as pigeons coo from the rafters.
Plans to restore the buildings won grants of more than $90,000 each through the Heritage Fund, which Arizona voters established in 1990. And both were stripped of that promised funding in 2009, when the state swept the Heritage Fund in an effort to balance its sinking budget.
In 2010, lawmakers eliminated the Heritage Fund, pulling the plug on dozens of approved, construction–ready projects, including five in Florence.
“Using Heritage funds, we’ve been able to maintain a part of history,” said Bariola, grant writer for the Florence Preservation Foundation. “Without funding, the culture of these buildings wastes away.” During the Heritage Fund’s 20–year run, Florence received more than $1.5 million in 18 state grants to restore its 19th century structures. The former mining community and Pinal County seat was third in the state for total dollars granted, behind Phoenix and Tucson.
Now, a state lawmaker is moving forward with a resolution that would put the Heritage Fund back on the ballot in November. If approved, the fund would be protected from any future sweeps thanks to the 1998 Voter Protection Act, a constitutional amendment that prohibits state lawmakers from reallocating any voter–created funds. “It’s fitting we do this, especially in our centennial year,” Rep. Russ Jones, R–Yuma, said recently to the House Committee on Agriculture and Water, which unanimously voted to support HCR 2047.
The Heritage Fund provided up to $10 million annually from the Arizona Lottery to both the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Arizona State Parks. Game and Fish used the money to promote outdoor recreation, help threatened and endangered species and educate residents about the environment and wildlife. Arizona State Parks used the fund for its own acquisitions and improvements and administered grants through programs benefiting historic preservation, trails and parks.
It’s not just Florence benefiting from the Heritage Fund – every city and town in Arizona has received the grant money, said Janice Miano, part–time executive director of the Arizona Heritage Alliance. “The impact is most noticeable in the rural counties, where any infusion of external funds for trail maintenance, land acquisition and construction repair will have a far larger impact to the relative population,” she said.
A Heritage Fund grant for $60,000 was canceled for a book on midcentury modern architecture published by the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission. The city was able to shore up the money from federal grants to complete the project, and “Midcentury Marvels” will soon have its second printing.
Oro Valley wasn’t as fortunate. A $27,660 grant to build a dog park was canceled, along with a $111,160 grant to restore the 1874 Steam Pump Ranch. Ainsley Legner, director or Oro Valley’s Parks, Recreation, Library and Cultural Resources Department, said she’d be delighted to see Oro Valley residents be able to visit and use that land for recreation. “We don’t have any money available to improve the site. We can’t stabilize all the structures and provide the necessary amenities, like a restroom or a fire hydrant,” she said. “When you take away something as significant as Heritage funding, you can no longer pull all those resources together to make good things happen.”
Jay Ziemann, legislative liaison for Arizona State Parks, said the agency’s board supports Jones’ resolution but that his optimism is limited. Ziemann said many legislators share the views of Rep. Brenda Barton, R–Safford, who raised concerns in the committee meeting about the availability of lottery funds. A reinstated Heritage Fund would reduce the amount of revenue available to the Legislature. “It’s nice that it cleared that first step, but it’s got a long way to go,” Ziemann said. “I know it has a lot of hurdles ahead.”
Watch the Video. Click on HCR2047 in the lower left hand column.
More than 100 Conservation Advocates Meet with State Legislators for Environmental Day at the Capitol.
January 31, 2012, Phoenix, AZ – Today at the Arizona State Capitol, more than 100 people from 25 different legislative districts and representing more than 20 groups met with their state legislators in support of environmental protection and conservation programs.
Volunteer advocates asked legislators to support adequate funding for State Parks and to specifically support legislation sponsored by Representative Karen Fann (R-1) that allows parks to keep revenue generated from the parks to support the park system.
“Our state parks deserve to be open, public, and keep the money they earn at the gate from visitors, said Bret Fanshaw with Environment Arizona. “We hope the legislature will pass Representative Fann’s bill in good faith that state parks will be protected in this year’s budget and into the future.”
Conservation of state trust lands has long been a key priority for most Arizona conservation groups. While there is no comprehensive measure on the table to do that, advocates asked legislators to support conserving state trust lands and to support the bills being promoted by Senator John Nelson (R-10) to facilitate limited and transparent land exchanges for better management of state trust lands and public lands. They asked the legislators to refrain from trying to swipe the last of the Land Conservation Fund, a voter-protected fund that supports conservation of state trust lands and for which voters again expressed support on the 2010 ballot.
“We need to preserve certain state trust lands to save their natural resources, open spaces, wildlife habitat, and historic/geologic features so that our communities now and in the future have those treasures,” said Ann Hutchinson, Executive Vice President, North Country Conservancy – Daisy Mountain Preservation Effort. “The values go way beyond the obvious beauty of the land and the opportunities to recreate. The preserved open spaces have economic value. Businesses and residents look to preserves and parks to raise and maintain a high quality of life. Homes and land surrounding parks and preserves have higher value.”
Keeping funding for the Arizona Water Protection Fund was also a key issue for many advocates. The Arizona Water Protection Fund is the only dedicated funding source to protect and restore riparian habitats in Arizona. In 2011, the Legislature voted to permanently eliminate the general fund appropriation for the program.
Also on the priority list for advocates was a measure sponsored by Representative Steve Farley (D-28) that reinstates both the Heritage Fund and the Local Transportation Assistance Fund, which helps to fund transit. Prior to the Legislature’s elimination of the State Parks Heritage Fund as part of the FY2011 budget, these dollars helped fund natural areas, historic preservation, and local and regional park programs.
“An additional measure, HCR 2047, sponsored by Representative Russ Jones, is a referral to the voters for the 2012 election and would restore the language and funding of the Parks’ side of the Heritage Fund,” said Janice Miano, Director of the Arizona Heritage Alliance. “With the success of either measure, the voters’ Heritage Fund would once again be whole and functioning, providing countless jobs, community pride, and potential for increased tourism to both city and rural areas.”
Group leaders expressed concerns about the plethora of anti-environmental legislation, much of it aimed at ignoring or weakening federal environmental laws and land protections. Among them are bills that seek to control national forests and other public lands, measures whose intent is to assert total control of air and water and thus ignore the provisions of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.
“We need our state legislature and governor to step up to strengthen Arizona’s environmental protection laws, rather than seek to ignore or weaken the safety nets for clean air and clean water, as well as our endangered plants and animals,” said Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Without the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, there would be few, if any, protections for these important resources.”