Your gift today will support connected open spaces in the Sonoran Desert! Donate Now

Top 5 Reasons to Vote NO on Prop 301

1. Arizonans have long identified preserving open space as one of their most important values. Proposition 301 was referred to the ballot by the legislature to raid the Land Conservation Fund. This is a voter-approved fund for conserving land and the only state fund dedicated to saving State Trust lands near Arizona communities.  Many of these State Trust land parcels contain crucial wildlife habitat, wildlife linkages, riparian areas, and other natural resources.

2. State Trust lands comprise 35 percent of the land base in eastern Pima County (25 percent is privately-owned). The Land Conservation Fund is the only dedicated state funding to help Pima County and other communities purchase State Trust land for conservation and open space.

3. Land Conservation Fund dollars are matched dollar for dollar by communities to buy State Trust land. Together these funds primarily benefit public education. When the legislature takes this $123 million, it is really taking twice that from the schools.

4. The Land Conservation Fund benefits lands identified in Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP). With the adoption of the SDCP planning process in 1998, and the many successful implementation steps taken in the ensuing 12 years, Pima County is ahead of the curve on regional land use planning. Without the Land Conservation Fund, Pima County would not be able to afford the purchase of State Trust lands – they are simply too expensive. Biologically sensitive State Trust lands identified in the SDCP could be developed in a piecemeal fashion, resulting in unnecessary habitat destruction.

5. In recent news articles, legislators have said that by sweeping Land Conservation Fund monies into the General Fund, this money can be spent on more important things like schools and health care. However, there is absolutely no assurance the money will be spent in this way. It could just as easily be used to off-set corporate tax breaks or other priorities the legislators identify. If they intended to spend this money on schools and health care, they should have said so in Prop 301.  They did not.

 

Background

Prop 301 was referred to the ballot by the Arizona State Legislature for the November 2010 election and asks the voters to approve sweeping all the funds in the Land Conservation Fund into the General Fund. During the previous two legislative sessions, the Legislature tried to sweep these funds without voter approval but a judge ruled that voter approval is necessary.

The Land Conservation Fund was created by voters in 1998 as part of the Arizona Preserve Initiative (API) and is the only state fund dedicated to helping communities save State Trust land. The API itself was created by the legislature in 1996 and was designed to preserve select State Trust land parcels around urban areas for conservation. The API established a process whereby communities could purchase State Trust lands for conservation without going to auction. However, due to a lawsuit threat, this was later amended. Now, all State Trust lands must go through an official auction to the highest bidder.

By creating the Land Conservation Fund, voters authorized the state to appropriate $20 million to the Land Conservation Fund every year. This appropriation is scheduled to end in 2011. A “Growing Smarter Grant” program was created in order to disburse the monies in the Land Conservation Fund. Communities can apply for “Growing Smarter Grants” to help purchase specific State Trust land parcels for conservation. Communities must provide a dollar for dollar match to the grant. Thus, once utilized, the Land Conservation Fund dollars actually go twice as far in their benefit to Arizona schools and other beneficiaries of the State Trust.

After receiving a provisional “Growing Smarter Grant,” jurisdictions request an auction from the State Land Department. In doing this, they are taking a risk that they could be out-bid on the purchase of the State Trust land parcels. This is one reason that there is currently $123 million in the Land Conservation Fund. With that said, communities are using the Land Conservation Fund to purchase and preserve State Trust land parcels for conservation and open space. In 2009 Pima County bought 320 acres of State Trust land on Tumamoc Hill at auction for $4.7 million. Phoenix and Scottsdale have requested auctions on parcels of land in the fall of 2010 that could potentially use an additional $50 million of the Land Conservation Fund.

 

tumamoc4.jpg
View of Tumamoc Hill. Photo by Pima County. 

 

 

Arizona Preserve Initiative Timeline

1996  

The Arizona Preserve Initiative (API) was passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

•    The API was intended to encourage the preservation of select State Trust land near urban areas for the benefit of future generations. It set up a process for specific lands to be deemed eligible for conservation and then sold to a state agency or local jurisdiction.

•    State Lands within 1 to 3 miles of municipalities, dependent on population, were eligible for preservation under API.  Lands must be sold at appraised market value.

•    The original intent of API was to allow the acquisition of lands for conservation purchases to occur without public auction. This would ensure that the lands would not be bid on for development purposes.

1997-1999  

Amendments to API were passed by the Legislature which expanded eligible lands in Maricopa and Pima County to a 13 mile radius surrounding incorporated areas. The Tortolita Mountains area in Pinal County became eligible for preservation through the amendments.

1998       

Voters approved a proposition which authorized funding of the program from 2000 to 2011. This proposition allocated $20 million per year to be utilized as matching funds for the purchase of State Trust lands.

2003      

Just before Tumamoc Hill was scheduled to be sold to Pima County for preservation, a group     known as People for the West filed a legal challenge to the constitutionality of API. They stated that the land must be sold through a public auction to the highest bidder. The case never went to court, but as a result of the filing the State does not now allow land to be sold without going to public auction.

2009      

With the assistance of a “Growing Smart Grant” from the Land Conservation Fund, Pima County purchased 320 acres of State Trust land on Tumamoc Hill for $4.7 million at public auction. Also in 2009, Pima County purchased 67.17 acres at the Valencia Site for $940,000. Pima County was the only bidder at both of these auctions.

2010      

As of March 2010, there have been 15 land sales through the API. Totaling 5,908 acres, this land has added approximately $215 million to the permanent Trust funds. There are 11 pending sale applications, totaling 15,461 acres.

 

Please Vote NO on Prop 301

To read the official text of the proposed amendment and ballot arguments for and against the proposition, please visit the AZ Secretary of State’s site:

http://www.azsos.gov/election/2010/Info/PubPamphlet/english/Prop301.htm

Comments are closed.