PHOENIX – Voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure to declare state sovereignty over Arizona’s forests and other natural resources.
Unofficial returns showed Proposition 120 trailing by a wide margin.
The measure would have amended the Arizona Constitution to say that the state “declares its sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within its boundaries.”
The proposition didn’t cover Native American reservations, national parks and military installations.
Supporters said sovereignty over forests, for example, would put Arizona in charge of managing logging and thinning to prevent catastrophes such as the 2011 Wallow Fire.
Rep. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, who led the push for a resolution the Legislature referred to the ballot, said he was disappointed with the result but has some ideas to bring more property underneath Arizona’s control, boosting the state’s economic security, when the Legislature comes back into session.
“I don’t think people really understood where we were trying to head with this,” Crandell said.
Opponents, including the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, said Arizona is in no position to manage forests and other resources now controlled by the federal government.
“It shows that the people of Arizona aren’t crazy like the legislators that proposed this,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “(Arizonans) support having public lands. It’s part of what makes Arizona special.”
Supporters acknowledged that Arizona may not be ready at present to manage those resources but argued that approval would begin a dialogue with Washington over the state’s rights. They also acknowledged that the measure could invite a lawsuit by the federal government.
The ballot measure proposed repealing language in the Arizona Constitution giving up claim to any unallocated public land. That provision was required under the Arizona-New Mexico Enabling Act, which cleared the way for statehood and granted Arizona nearly 11 million acres of land in trust, primarily to benefit public education.
Crandell argued that the act is an example of western states being denied the same control over public land as other states.
No political group organized to support Proposition 120. A group calling itself No on Prop 120 – Stop Legislature’s Land Grab reported raised $6,000 through Oct. 25, $2,000 of it from the environmental group Grand Canyon Trust, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.