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Bills are dangerous attacks on public lands

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Dear Editor:

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, recently introduced two bills designed to facilitate the transfer of Arizona’s public lands to state ownership. HB 2547 and HB 2557 represent a dangerous attack on our state’s public estate. As a lifelong hunter and Arizonan who relies on public lands, I ask that you condemn these bills and write your representatives to ask that they do the same.

HB 2547 and HB 2557 go against the wishes of Arizonans, the majority of whom oppose the transfer of public lands to the state. Rep. Finchem contends that public lands represent lost revenue – lost for whom is unclear, as most sportsmen and women recognize that Arizona’s public lands support 201,000 jobs and annually generate $21.2 billion in consumer spending and $1.4 billion in state and local taxes.

Our outdoor economy is vibrant, growing and diverse enough to benefit communities across the state. Transferring these lands to the state would overload state agencies and could result in habitat degradation or reduced access to our public lands and waters. Most importantly, studies show that transferring federal lands to state ownership inevitably results in those lands being sold into private ownership. Our state agencies don’t have the capacity to manage an extra 30.7 million acres of lands across the state.

Rep. Finchem’s bills do not explicitly mention public land transfers; instead, HB 2547 seeks to transfer the management of public lands to the state with an emphasis on resource extraction and development. HB 2557 would divert $1 million in taxpayer dollars for a study of lost potential revenues on public lands in the state. It’s not hard to see where Rep. Finchem is going with this legislation, particularly because he authored another bill this session, HB 2056, that explicitly seeks the transfer of public lands to the state.

I do not own thousands of acres of quality wildlife habitat. I hunt, fish and recreate on Arizona’s public lands every year, and I depend on the effective management of big game habitat on these lands. These two bills would put our state on a dangerous course towards the mismanagement or privatization of our incredible public lands. Please stand with me and the Arizona Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers in opposing this legislation.

Justin Nelson

Mesa

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