|From this survey, one must conclude
that the chances are likely that Congress will retain most of the land
in U.S. ownership, in its present uses. The exception might be the 12,600,000
acres of Bureau of Land Management land. It is to this source, in fact,
that Arizona has looked in the past and can continue to look in the future,
primarily for additional private land. (As late as 1962, BLM acreage in
Arizona amounted to 13,100,000 acres. Compare this to the current figure
and one can see how much land already has gone to Arizona in just the last
17 years.) Much of the BLM land is now occupied by cattle and sheep growers
under BLM leases, with part of the rentals going to the state. That, in
turn, helps the state meet its own budget obligations.
Federal mining law provides for the prospecting
of minerals and title may be obtained if commercial ore deposits are found.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act, mentioned
earlier, and enacted into law in 1976, recognizes communities that are
"hemmed in" by federal land and provides help for their expansion.
* * *
Any attempt, however, to place state-owned lands
in private hands encounters an entirely different set of problems. Nearly
all of the 10,500,000 acres owned by Arizona are in a variety of trusts,
including "school sections," set aside by various acts of Congress to support
and encourage elementary, high school and college education. These lands
are in turn leased to cattlemen and others, and in 1978,
rentals (and some sales) a total of $24.4 million in revenue -- a healthy
chunk of Arizona's school finances. It's doubtful that many Arizonans would
want that changed. Some of the same people who want more federal land in
private ownership are opposed to any sale of state land to private interests.
As Arizona grows and prospers -- and it will,
there is no doubt about that -- it is obvious that we will need more and
more privately-owned land. A part of our federal lands should be made available
for future development, but the available supply is not as large as one
Even if a wholesale turnover of federal land were
possible -- and I doubt that it is -- one might wonder if such a move would
create more problems than it would solve.
Take the National Parks within Arizona, for example.
Under the bill introduced in the Arizona Legislature, the state would assume
"some" of these as "state parks." (The AP report mentioned earlier did
not spell out which parks would be saved -- and which ones, presumably,
would be left to other uses.) Last year, however, the National Park Service
spent $11 million just to maintain the federal parks located in
Arizona. Where would the state get that kind of money? From taxpayers who
already have clearly demonstrated that they want state and federal
Turning over federal land to the state also would
end the federal "in-lieu" payments to Arizona. Under this arrangement,
which I supported three years ago, the federal government pays each state
a lump sum each year, in lieu of taxes that might be realized if the land
were privately-owned. In 1978, Arizona received more than $7 million
from these payments. Again, who would be asked to pick up that tab?
Major military reservations cannot be located
on state-owned land. The big installations in Southern Arizona and elsewhere
would simply have to close up shop and move. I don't have to remind any
Arizonan what kind of impact that would have on our employment rate, not
to mention our state economy.
|The federal government has not been
rigid when it comes to giving up land. On the contrary, history shows that
just the opposite has been the rule.
Since 1781, in fact, the federal government has
given 328 million acres of land back to the states -- for an average
of more than 1 million acres of land a year, for 198 years.
Beginning after the end of the Civil War, 61 million
acres of land were granted to veterans.
As America entered the industrial age and pushed
to open its Western frontier, Congress granted the railroads 94 million
acres, recognizing the vital role that this segment of free enterprise
was destined to play.
Throughout the history of our country, I think
Congress has recognized and responded to the special needs of the West.
Our problems are not the same as the problems of the East. Our cities are
different. Our lifestyle is different.
The West, in fact, is the only region of the country
with its "own" Cabinet agency -- the Department of the Interior, created
by Congress originally to administer new land acquisitions of the United
States (including the Gadsden Purchase, which included most of what is
now Southern Arizona.)
Some Westerners look at our Eastern states and
see their much smaller percentages of federal land and view the situation
as unfair. But it was not a plot, only the course of history, that created
Following the Revolutionary War, most of the land
in the original 13 colonies was granted to veterans for farms and homes.
It seemed like the fair thing to do. This new, little country had to be
settled, and governments were generous with their help.
Other Eastern territories held claims to pieces
of the Western frontier. As each clamored for admission to the Union, each
surrendered its claims as a condition of Statehood.
The West was a different story altogether. It
was annexed, bought or fought for by the U.S. government.
The U.S. Army, in the form of the cavalry, protected
the first settlers. And as relative calm settled in, Washington created
the U.S. Marshal to protect citizens and enforce the law.
Present-day settlers, moving without the hazards
of wagon trains and not having to fear shootouts at sundown, have different
needs: land and water.
I think the Congress has usually moved responsibly
and aggressively to meet both these problems. I don't know if I'm ready
to enlist in a rebellion -- but I will settle for the same sort of quiet
and orderly land transition that we've always had -- and always will have.
* * *
History shows rather clearly that Washington has
always moved to develop, not hinder, the West. Federal ownership of lands
in Arizona can frequently be a blessing, and at its worst, it's still not
"all bad." Some of our greatest economic and scenic assets -- world-famous
Grand Canyon, our magnificent National Forests (all vital to the Arizona
tourism industry) and important military installations -- all are maintained
by Uncle Sam. Few would have it otherwise.