Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Arizona lawmakers push to take over federal land

Another "sagebrush rebellion" is spreading through legislatures in Arizona and other Western states with a series of formal demands that the federal government hand over title to tens of millions of acres of forests, ranges and other public lands. Arizona could claim as much as 25 million acres -- all federal land in the state except military bases, Indian reservations, national parks and some wilderness areas. If the federal government fails to comply by the end of 2014, the states say they will begin sending property-tax bills to Washington, D.C. While the original sagebrush rebellion grew out of conflicts over management of federal lands, often as specific as keeping a forest road open, the new takeover movement owes more to "tea party" politics, with a strong focus on reducing the scope of federal influence and opening land to more users. Supporters say federal agencies have mismanaged the land and blocked access to natural resources, depriving the states of jobs and revenue from businesses ready to develop those resources. With the state in control, the backers say, loggers could return to forests where endangered species halted work decades ago and miners could regain access to ore outside the Grand Canyon. The new sagebrush rebellion appears to do just that, attempting to seize most federal lands. That was the goal, ultimately unsuccessful, of the last rebellion in the late 1970s and 1980s, when Arizona, Nevada and other states passed legislation seeking to take control of federal lands. What rankled those rebels and those behind today's effort is the sheer size of the federal government's land holdings in the West. In Arizona, the government owns 48 percent of the state's total area, according to a 2004 analysis by the U.S. General Services Administration. In Utah, the total is 57 percent; in Nevada, 85 percent. "We know firsthand what it means to have limited access to and control over our natural resources. It is interfering with our Western way of life," said U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a Republican who was part of the 1980s takeover attempt and who endorsed the latest proposal earlier this month...more

This story says the House Rules Committee killed the Arizona bill yesterday afternoon.

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