Arizona’s Proposition 120, to be put to the ballot this November, is seeking amendment of the state’s constitution to declare the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the state over the “air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the state’s boundaries,” including the Grand Canyon. State Republicans, who are backing the measure, hold that federal retention of the land hurts the economy of the state and creates a precarious situation where the state continues to struggle to fund public education and other duties towards its citizens.
State Senator Sylvia Allen told Reuters on the issue, “We do not have the ability in rural Arizona to provide jobs for our citizens due to the fact that the federal government controls all the land … It leaves us at a great disadvantage. We’re not able to bring in industry and provide for the jobs that we need.”
In May, the Republican Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer had vetoed a state bill that required Washington relinquish federal ownership of 48,000 square miles to the state, holding that such a measure would create uncertainty for existing leaseholders on federal lands.
Opponents of Proposition 120 say it is an exercise in futility, and would undermine protections of federal laws created to preserve and protect the environment and wildlife. Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter told Reuters, “They can’t even fund and ensure that their (state) parks are protected, so how they would take on an additional 25 to 30 million acres of land is a big question mark.”
So, the question that Proposition 120 actually places is whether proceeds from important natural resources like Grand Canyon, and the liabilities to protect it for future generations, should remain in federal control, or be turned over to Arizona.