A couple of weeks back, I posted an Open Country blog about a ballot proposal in Arizona that would have amended the state’s constitution to declare Arizona’s sovereignty over the “air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the state’s boundaries” and lay claim to federally-owned lands in the state.
Why? Proponents of the measure claim that the federal government is not properly managing the lands and that publicly-owned federal lands are a burden to the state. Opponents, of course, were concerned that state control of such lands, which included the Grand Canyon, would mean rampant development, mining and timbering. There was even talk of selling off some of the lands.
None of which will happen. The measure was soundly defeated by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.
Arizona’s recent ballot measure is just the latest in a series of skirmishes over federal lands in the West where guys like Wayne Hage are local legends of the “sagebrush rebellion” against federal control of public lands.
Attempts by states to seize control of federal lands will continue to be a topic of debate as well. Utah passed a bill earlier this year that requires federal authorities to transfer ownership of public lands back to the state by Dec. 31, 2014.
That bill will likely be the topic of future Open Country posts and will certainly be a topic of discussion for the U.S. Supreme Court as it tries to determine the constitutionality of such laws. The outcome could determine the long-term future of federally-owned public lands across the nation.
The battle for the Grand Canyon is over – for now. The war, however, is just beginning.