After seven failed attempts during the past two decades, Arizonans voted heavily in favor of Proposition 119, a ballot measure that will allow the state to swap state land for federal trust land in order to protect military bases from encroachment, as well as preserve sensitive land areas, such as the San Pedro River, in the process.
Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, said she believes Arizonans passed Prop. 119 with a 62 percent ‘yes’ vote this year because of a more concerted effort to educate voters.
“I think we did a better job of getting the word out to people that it really had the accountability that is needed,” Bahr said. “Ultimately the people get to decide on the exchanges.”
Prop. 119 was Sen. John Nelson’s second attempt in passing this type of law. The Litchfield Park Republican worked in conjunction with environmental groups to gain their support.
The previous version, 2010’s Proposition 110, failed even with the support of environmentalists. Nelson said he again worked closely with groups such as the Sierra Club this year to pass the initiative. Nelson added that Arizona is now one of the few states to have this type of legislation in place.
Both Nelson and Bahr said there is a lesson to be learned through the passage of Prop. 119.
“As a whole, what it shows is that when people are willing to work together – Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, environmentalists and those of us who work for the state – good things can happen,” Nelson said. “I think this legislation shows that.”
Bahr said she hopes the initiative’s passage will send a message to the Legislature.
“Hopefully the legislature gets this message that if you work together with people, you can work through concerns and present something that is collaborative and the public will respond positively,” Bahr said. “It should send a message to the Legislature like ‘look, you need to work on these issues to solve problems.’”
Bahr congratulated Nelson for his willingness to collaborate with supporters of the measure.
“I have to give him kudos for being willing to sit down and work with people, unlike most of the rest of the majority this year,” she said.
Nelson expressed significant appreciation to the groups who helped Prop. 119 succeed.
“They need to have a real ‘thank you,’” Nelson said. “It’s good for protecting the military and management of state lands; it really comes down to…under the rules and guidelines, they will make money on it.”