Arizona state land opens for conservation

  Arizona environmentalists now have a chance to lease state lands for conservation purposes. As signed by Gov. Fife Symington, the Arizona Preserve Initiative allows conservation groups to lease state lands, estimated at 30,000 acres, within a three-mile radius of all major cities.

An earlier bill from Symington proposed to open up over 700,000 acres of land anywhere in the state. The Arizona Cattlemen's Association lobbied hard to kill that idea. Ranchers want state lands in rural areas to benefit the economy, says spokesman Bas Aja. But the group supported the amended bill because it helps preserve open spaces around cities. "We'd rather have this than shopping malls," Aja says.

Environmentalists say the bill is only a small first step toward conserving state lands. "The only reason we think this is positive," says Sandy Barr of The Nature Conservancy, "is because the handling of our state lands is so awful right now."

* Bill Taylor
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