Editor:

Once again, our public lands and private property rights are under attack.

Rep. Finchem has introduced HB2702 in the Arizona Legislature. This bill would require any land sale, swap, or transfer to the U.S. government for any purpose to be approved by the Arizona Legislature and governor. The bill gives the state a “right of first refusal” over any private real estate transaction with the federal government.

Private property rights include the right of use, enjoyment, and disposal. While the government can “restrict” those uses for a public purpose or to use eminent domain to purchase the land for a fair price, it does not have the ability to determine private land exchange. In Arizona we believe in maximizing freedom and limiting unnecessary, intrusive government.

When private land is transferred to the federal government, we do lose out on property taxes. But this bill views the value of public lands only for their property tax contribution, and ignores other economic value generated by outdoor recreation on these lands to the state and rural communities, not to mention the non-monetized value. The Arizona outdoor recreation economy supports 201,000 jobs and generates $1.4B in state and local tax revenue. The simple fact is that the positive economic impact from outdoor recreation on these lands far outweighs the property tax benefit.

Arizonans cherish public lands for all types of outdoor recreation. COVID has highlighted the value in getting outside and connecting with nature, as evidenced by hunting and fishing license sales increasing over the past year. We need to protect our public land access and keep our sporting heritage alive.

This bill is headed to a House floor vote, please contact your legislator ASAP asking them to vote no on HB2702. Information to find your legislator can be found with this weblink: https://www.azleg.gov/findmylegislator/

Joe Miller, Payson

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