A coalition of developers, educators, ranchers
and environmentalists has agreed to postpone an effort to preserve
about 10 percent of Arizona's 9.2 million acres of state trust
land. Citing internal disagreement, the coalition has abandoned its
attempt to put a preservation initiative on the 2002 ballot (HCN,
7/30/01: Not in our backyard).
Since managers of
state trust land are required to earn maximum revenue from their
properties, much of Arizona's trust land is under heavy development
pressure. Members of the coalition had hoped to change the mission
of the State Land Department to allow protection of some trust
land. But money from state trust land goes directly to public
schools, and many educators were wary of the coalition's
"It was clear that we
weren't getting anywhere under the current proposal," says
coalition member Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club. "The education
interests felt that what we were proposing would somehow harm
public education in Arizona."
Other activists say
the sheer complexity of the issues makes a quick agreement
impossible: Coalition members are not only trying to protect some
state land, but also to streamline the approval process for
development of other state parcels.
coalition members hope to reach a consensus by the middle of next
year, leaving plenty of time to garner public support and gather
signatures for a successful 2004 initiative. Says Maeve Johnson of
Valley Partnership, a Phoenix-area developers' association, "It's
like trying to negotiate a peace treaty between Israel and
Palestine. You've got to keep trying, because the issues at stake
are really important to everyone."