In November 2012 voters in Arizona will address Proposition 120, entitled State Sovereignty. It arises from the House of Representatives (HCR 2004) as a proposed Constitutional Amendment. If passed Proposition 120 would declare Arizona's sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the state's boundaries. Approval would repeal Arizona's disclaimer of all right and title to public lands within the state (except Indian reservations).
Advocates of Proposition 120 say that:
- If passed, this proposition will provide Arizona with the same authority over its own natural resources enjoyed by other states. It will grant the state the ability to more effectively protect and harness the economic potential stored in the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the state. Since 2001, over two million acres of Arizona's forests have burned due to irresponsible federal management. The proposition gives Arizona exclusive sovereignty over all state territories and resources, except for Indian reservations and lands ceded to the United States, such as military forts and installations. As Arizona's population continues to grow, it is imperative that the state be allowed to manage its own land and benefit from the wealth of its resources. The continued vitality of our state will depend heavily on our ability to exercise our authority over the natural wealth currently being denied us.
- When the western territories became states, the federal government retained land within each of the western states in violation of federal law. Federal retention of that land hurts the economy of the western states and leaves them struggling to adequately fund public education, nurture their economies, and manage their forests and natural resources. The EPA threatens to close coal-generating power plants with excessive regulations. Closing these plants will result in higher utility costs for everyone. We can't build a bridge or perform needed flood control activities because of interference from numerous federal agencies. We experience catastrophic forest fires, loss of wildlife habitat, threats to community watersheds, and loss of jobs, all of which affect the economy everywhere in the state. When the federal government mismanages our forestlands, the state cannot intervene. Roads are being closed and citizens denied access across federal lands. It takes years to obtain mining permits from the federal government, and some areas are closed to mining all together. As a result, Arizona loses billions of dollars that could be used to fund education and address other budget concerns. Our abundant natural resources remain under the control of unelected federal bureaucrats. Arizona is a sovereign state, and we have a right to control the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife, and other natural resources within our boundaries. Passing Prop 120 would be a small but important step in asserting our state rights and a rejection of the archaic colonial control by the federal government.
- The federal government claims jurisdiction over everything it desires in Arizona - the animals, the water, and the lands. Proposition 120 provides all of Arizona's citizens the opportunity to assert their opinion of whether or not we in Arizona or the federal government bureaucrats in Washington care more about our animals, water and lands.
Opponents of Proposition 120 say that:
- Proposition 120 destroys Arizona's iconic public lands heritage. The Legislature not only wants "exclusive authority" over all parks, forests and public lands - including Grand Canyon and Saguaro National Parks, Superstition Wilderness Area, and millions of acres - it has indicated that once it has them, it will sell them off to private interests. Our public lands are Arizona's heritage. They provide us with clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat and unsurpassed recreation opportunities. The Legislature wants to sell our freedom to hike, camp, hunt, fish, view wildlife and enjoy unsurpassed scenery to whomever they wish, for whatever reason. Proposition 120 is a budget disaster.
- The goal is to assert state control of public lands of national importance - forests, parks, monuments, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges and more - lands that are a defining feature of Arizona, which fuel our economy, support our wildlife heritage, and sustain our quality of life. Federal laws providing for critical environmental protections would also be undermined - laws like the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act. This proposition is unconstitutional. When we became a state 100 years ago, we made a contractual obligation with the rest of the nation regarding these federal public lands. These lands belong to all Americans.
- This is an unconstitutional measure that would give Arizona sovereignty over federal public lands in Arizona, including Grand Canyon National Park. Its intent is to gain state control over national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges in Arizona, get rid of the federal land managing agencies, and undermine protections provided by federal laws that guide public land management. Asserting state sovereignty over federal lands makes no sense. It could be a massive waste of Arizona taxpayer dollars given that the American people and the federal government are not simply going to allow lands they currently own be taken away by Arizona. The state already has difficulty funding its own state park system and managing state trust lands, let alone trying to pay for management and care of all of the federal lands within its borders. The ownership of lands within the state by the federal government was part of the legislation allowing Arizona to become a state. Reneging on that promise could cause a cascade of unknown legal issues.
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Note: pro and con arguments for the proposition were quoted or paraphrased from the official arguments. More arguments may have been submitted; I am presenting only a few that I believe will most help readers decide how to vote. You can find the entire wording of the ballot proposition, and all the pro and con arguments, in the official election pamphlet.