PHOENIX (AP) — A group of lawmakers in Arizona has renewed a fight on federal ownership of land with a bill that would steer the attorney general to consider joining a lawsuit for state control.
Republican State Rep. Mark Finchem and 30 colleagues proposed a measure that would mandate legal analysis of a case Utah has prepared to challenge for public lands in that state. If the attorney general determines the case has merit, the bill allows Arizona to join the lawsuit in the fall, The Arizona Republic reported .
The House Land, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee plans a hearing of the bill Thursday morning.
“This is a civil-rights case,” said Finchem, who argues that the feds manage lands poorly and inefficiently, robbing Arizona of a chance at development and revenue collection on them.
Some critics say the millions of acres of land are too expensive for Arizona to maintain unless they sell them, closing off grounds for recreational activities.
“It’s time for the state legislators to quit wasting the state’s valuable resources on these harebrained schemes that are legally and socially doomed to failure,” said Brad Powell, president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation.
The federal government spends an average of $80 million a year on fire prevention and suppression activities in Arizona forests and ranges and more than $200 million in a bad fire year, Powell said.
Arizona voters rejected a proposition seeking state control of federal lands in 2012. Legislators referred the proposed constitutional amendment to the ballot, where it lost by more than a 2-to-1 margin.
The federal government controls more than 40 percent of Arizona land, including 18 national parks and monuments, six national forests, vast desert ranges and military grounds. After accounting for tribal lands, less than 20 percent of the state is available for private or state ownership.