Urge your state senator to vote no on HB2702
Arizona HB2702 would require any land sale, swap or transfer to the U.S. Government for any purpose to be approved by the Arizona state legislature and Governor. The bill gives the state a “right of first refusal” over any private real estate transaction with the federal government. Primary Sponsor: Representative Mark Finchem, LD 11.
Points of Opposition Summary (see below for more information on each):
● Legal: The bill is likely to face legal challenges by violating private property rights; it is likely unconstitutional; and it is detrimental to Arizona’s Native American tribes.
● Bureaucratic: The bill creates unnecessary state legislative bureaucracy.
● Economic: The bill results in the unintended consequences of limiting access for outdoor recreation and similarly limiting the associated economic benefits including federal funding from LWCF.
● Constituents: Many organizations representing very different interests and different
political leanings have signed into the RTS system to oppose.
● Impact: This legislation is certain to result in a costly fight with the Federal Government with no benefit for the State of Arizona.
● Examples: Select examples from Yuma, Safford, Payson and Willcox of what would not be possible if this bill were to pass.
● HB2702 violates private property rights and lowers land values for sales of private land by restricting the number of potential buyers and by inserting the State Legislature and Governor as an obstacle between a willing buyer and seller.
● Despite Representative Finchem’s claims, HB2702 is likely unconstitutional. We’re not
lawyers, but spending millions of Arizona taxpayer’s dollars on a legal fight with tenuous
arguments and an uncertain outcome is simply not responsible. Below are excerpts from conversations we’ve had with some of those experts:
● The “Supremacy clause” of the US Constitution says that states cannot interfere with acts implementing lawful federal programs, of which, acquiring land is one. Notably, when Congress overwhelmingly passed the LWCF last year in a rare display of bipartisanship, the Senate specifically rejected an amendment that would give the states veto power over land acquisitions.
● A 2016 report written by 7 Republican Attorneys General and approved by 11 of 12 western states Attorneys General makes it pretty clear that the U.S. government is authorized to buy, sell, hold, and manage public land. A particularly notable point in the report is that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the Constitution gives Congress exclusive authority over public lands.
● Indian Reservation lands are held in trust by the United States government for the benefit of Indian tribes. That means if this bill were to pass, it would
unconstitutionally restrict the acquisition of property by the U.S. for the benefit of
Indian tribes in Arizona. And as a result, this would place the state of Arizona in
between a sovereign Indian tribe and the U.S.
● The bill adds unnecessary state bureaucracy and is impractical. Principals in public/private land deals will not be willing to add a 3rd party who essentially has “veto power” over a land transaction. Nor will they be willing to wait on a joint committee of the State Legislature or the Governor to meet, debate, and approve in order to move ahead with their projects.
● This bill will have a negative economic impact. The bill views the value of lands only for their property tax contribution but ignores the economic value generated by outdoor
recreation. The simple fact is the economic impact of outdoor recreation on the public lands that could be locked out by this bill far outweighs any property tax benefit (see examples
● The Arizona outdoor recreation economy supports 201,000 jobs and generates $1.4B in state and local tax revenue. What is the expected real estate tax benefit from this bill?
● The bill will unintentionally limit federal funding available to Arizona from the LWCF. 70% of Arizonans supported full funding of the LWCF and it had overwhelming bipartisan support including that of former Arizona Senator Martha McSally, current Senator Kyrsten Sinema, and 8 of our 9 Arizona House members. Why would the state want to be a roadblock for Arizona projects to receive this funding?
● There are numerous examples of great work that has been accomplished with
collaboration between private landowners, nonprofits and local leaders using LWCF dollars that would no longer be possible if this bill were to pass (see below).
● There is significant opposition from local organizations of all kinds who have signed in
against this bill in the RTS system, including:
● Arizona Chamber of Commerce
● Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
● The Arizona Wildlife Federation
● Inter Tribal Association of Arizona
● City of Phoenix
● The Nature Conservancy
● Home Builders Association of Central Arizona
● Arizona Planning Association
● The Western Way
● Diamond Ventures, Inc
Finally, the objective and impact of the bill does not benefit Arizonans:
● It appears the real objective of this bill is to pick a fight with the Federal government over public lands, rather look out for the interests of Arizonans. The background argument described in the bill is centered around the legality of the Federal Government owning and managing our public lands. Representative Finchem’s comments in committee, as well as over half the verbiage in the bill is devoted to this unfounded Federal Lands argument.
● The impact of this legislation will be to create a legal fight with the Federal government and if passed, whether that fight is won or lost, it will diminish the multiple benefits of Federal public lands to Arizonans at least until the bill is overruled by the courts.
Just a few examples of what would no longer be possible if HB2702 passes:
● ET Ranch—Safford: The 640-acre ET Ranch near Safford was purchased by the BLM in 2017. BLM made road improvements, installed a parking lot, and added signage and that property now provides a much needed gateway of access to approximately 32,000 acres of Santa Theresa and North Santa Theresa Wilderness areas for hunting, hiking and camping. The property was purchased with LWCF funds and the project was completed in partnership with the Southeastern Arizona Sportsman’s Club, National Wild Turkey Federation, Arizona Game & Fish Department and the Trust for Public Lands with support from many other local residents and outdoor recreation non-profits. The total value of the lost revenue from property taxes on the ET Ranch is less than $100/year.
● Doll Baby Ranch—Payson: The Doll Baby Ranch was purchased and transferred to the Tonto National Forest in 2019. This purchase provides public access to the Mazatzal Wilderness and Tonto National Forest. There is now a public trailhead and parking lot providing access for hunting and hiking as well as access to Crackerjack Mine Road which is a very popular OHV destination. This access is used by thousands of outdoor recreationists every year. Property taxes in 2018 on the Doll Baby Ranch were $3100.
● Quigley-Achee Wilderness Area (aka Quigley Ponds/Tacna Marsh)—Yuma: Quigley Ponds was purchased by the state and is managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department in order to protect wetlands along the Gila River. It provides opportunities for wildlife watching and birding and small game hunting. In this example, HB2702 would get in the way of our own State Lands and Game and Fish Department’s collaborative work.
● Cross F Ranch—Willcox: This project opens up 40,000 acres of public lands for hunting access in an area north of Aravaipa Creek. The project is supported by over 25 sportsmen groups including the Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, Arizona Game and Fish Department and Graham County, and makes strategic use of federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Potential lost tax revenue $1100/y