Editor’s Note: The following editorial appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune:
It could be worse. We could be Arizona.
While the Utah Legislature’s resolution to take control of federal lands within the Beehive State’s borders at least implies that national parks and wilderness areas would be exempt from such a takeover, Arizona has no such compunction.
A constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot in Arizona is a more direct attempt to boot federal land managers out of the Grand Canyon State. Although backers say it is modeled after Utah’s law, it goes even further.
Utah passed a “joint resolution” in which “Utah urges the United States Congress in the most strenuous terms to engage in good faith communication, cooperation, coordination, and consultation with the state of Utah regarding the transfer of public lands directly to the state of Utah.”
That’s quite different from Arizona’s proposed amendment, which states “The state of Arizona declares its sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within its boundaries except for territory established as Indian reservations by the government of the United States” and land the state ceded to the federal government.
It makes no provisions for federal control and funding for national parks or wilderness areas.
Conceivably, a Grand Canyon owned and run by the state of Arizona instead of by the American people could become disastrously commercialized, or even sold to private concerns that might allow mining, drilling and other development within the park boundaries.
That would be a theft from Americans of an irreplaceable treasure.
The amendment was at least partially prompted by a 20-year ban on new uranium and other mining on 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon approved last January by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Arizona legislators were outraged by the lost potential revenue, but seemed oblivious to the potential collapse of the state’s annual $3.5 billion take in tourist revenue if visitors were treated to the sight of mining operations on the canyon rim.
The ban also is being challenged by the Nuclear Energy Institute and the National Mining Association.
In Utah, the mere rumor of an Interior Department plan to establish another national monument in Utah prompted legislators to pass this unreasonable and probably unconstitutional resolution.
Utah’s legislative tantrum was mostly for show. Arizona’s sounds more like a declaration of war.