Senator Sylvia Allen and some of her followers are calling for the state to take control of the forests in Arizona.
A cautionary word or two is called for here. The state’s record of keeping its assets intact is not pretty. Last year, in order to keep our state from going bankrupt, the governor sold the state capitol building and the other state government offices in Phoenix, then leased them back.
Our very own rest area at the junction of Beeline and Hwy. 188 has been closed for years with no indication that it will ever be open to the public again. The rest areas along I-10 and I-40 are opened and closed at will, while the beautiful rest areas south of Flagstaff on I-17 have been closed for quite a while. I cite the closed rest areas because, as an older citizen, I really need them and secondly because I think they are an indicator of how well our state assets are managed.
Many of our state parks have suffered the same fate; closed or only open part time. Take Tonto Natural Bridge for example; if the Town of Payson and a concerned group of good citizens had not stepped forward, the park would be closed right now. As you know, the state is taking bids from private vendors to take over parts of the park’s operation.
If Arizona politicians had the power, the temptation to sell our forests to private interests, by these short-sighted and temporary custodians, would be hard to resist in poor times; times such as we have been facing in this state for quite a while.
In other states where the private land ownership prevails, access to forests such as ours here in Arizona is non-existent. Hunters and fishermen must gain permission from landowners in order to enter these properties, usually at a cost if one is not a friend or family member.
Camping is pretty much out of the question except in small, crowded areas set aside for these purposes. I did a quick check on the Internet and found that deer leases in Texas run from $3,000 to $7,950 per person. Dove and quail hunters pay $75 and up per day. Think of the freedom our national forests offer us here in Arizona. We can hike, camp, hunt and fish to our heart’s content.
We all have some gripes about our Forest Service, but we have gripes about a lot of other things also. This organization, the Forest Service, has the best qualified personnel to manage our forests. I don’t think Sen. Allen, our present or future governors, or politicians and their minions can be trusted to take care of our forests in our best interest.