In Arizona the US Government controls more than 40% of the state’s landmass, but this week maybe there will be a new legislation demanding the US government relinquish to the state those millions of acres of federal territory . Without debate the Republican passed the measures seeking the return of roughly 48 thousand square miles acreage to the state by 2015. We want to talk more about the legislation. We’re on the line with Arizona state senator who proposed the legislation. Senator Al Melvin, thanks so much for joining me!
Senator Melvin, the bill, as I understand, was approved on the 35 to 15 vote. But how likely is it that the republican governor Jan Brewer will sign the legislation?
Well, I’ll be totally surprised if she doesn’t. Her counterpart in state to the North of us the Utah governor signed almost identical legislation a week or two ago. Identical bills with the same wording had been introduced in Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, as I said Utah and Mexico, all of the western Mountain states. You know in your leading you said “without debate”. There was a little bit of debate. The vote was strictly party lined, we believe governance should be as close to the people as possible. The democrats just love federal control of almost anything for the party lined vote.
Why did Arizona decide to make this move now? What caused you to get involved with this legislation?
A couple of things. One is that if you look at a map which reflects this private and federal property, - I’m looking at one in my office right now, - all of the states in the East: Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma, - everything including them in East are for all purposes 99% private, the opposite is true in the West. Here in Arizona we are somewhere between 12-18% private, over 40% is federal and 20-some% Indian lands and military installations. We believe that the founders of our country wanted states to be separate but equal. And this is not equal. When you look at education alone, a lot of education is funded by private property taxes. If you are 18% private in Arizona and 98% in Texas, - the disparity is glaring. The question is why this has come to ahead now, sort of speak. We are on a hundredth birthday this year, as a state. And one explanation, I think, for the first 70 years or so as a state things went pretty good. Our mining industry flourished, lumber industry, the cattle – they raised their cattle on federal lands. But in the last 30 years to the extreme environmental position of the forest, the forest service be alarm and other, all three of these industries are coming to a grinding halt, they’ve been brought to their economic knees, to the point when this land has been totally mismanaged by the federal government. We just had the most horrendous forest fires in Arizona in history last year, because they refused to allow the cultivation of the forest and it goes on and on and I’m so pleased to work with other states in the West to wreck this disparity.
Well, from what I understand this landing question includes national monuments, national forests, national wildlife but the federal government is supposed to take care of that tens of thousands of square miles of land? Who would pay for it if the state gains its control of the land? How would this work?
Well, we have a state forester and each of our 15 colonies have natural resource calculation people. Believe me, we can take a care of it much better than the federal government can. It’s interesting to look at Canada for a minute. I had a chance to visit Canada a year ago. Canada has more federal land than we do. But the glaring difference is that each province in Canada manages all of the natural resources on that land in their respective provinces. It’s the province that manages the forest, the minerals, the water, the grazing, - everything. It works like a charm! And I know we can make a far better job than the federal government is doing.
Will the land remain in some cases national forests, national monuments? What does the state plan to do with the land?
The idea is to sell it, to privatize it. The founders of our country, when they set up 13 original colonies and went from coast to coast they said they knew in their wisdom that this land - some of it, maybe all of it – should be disposed of. And they said that this land should be sold for one purpose only: the payment of federal debt. And we are looking at the door of 16 trillion now. All of the Mid-West was at one stage federal land, and it was sold. And now this land should be sold as well.
Some conservationists are saying that less federal management would lead to misuse of the land, degradation of the land and its wildlife. How would you answer these responses?
As I said it’s due to their mismanagement, the federal conservation people, conservation environmentalists have created the most devastating forest fires in our state’s history. More protected species were killed in those devastating forest fires, than were protected by their misguided policies.
Will we see these forests remain? Or would they sell them off to the private companies?
Sure. It would be properly and responsibly harvested. We would have rejuvenation in lumber industry and mining industry and cattle, - all basic industries historically. It will be done environmentally correctly as well.
When you say the lumber industry would flourish, a lot of people would think of cutting down the trees and things like that.
Well, clearing forest, the undergrowth. In this last devastating fire that I mentioned to you – it’s interesting to note that people who have flown the area, you can look by an airplane and see the road that separates the Indian land, the tribal land from the federally managed land. On the Indian land they were able to properly manage their forest, allowing lumbering in a responsible way. The feds didn’t allow any of it so the undergrowth caused the devastating fire.
What do you look for to happen, I mean, how quickly could this potentially become law?
The sooner, the better. Frankly, what I envision, and I think of the other Mountain States is what will be going on if the Supreme Court right now where we have 26-plus attorneys general of their respective states before the Supreme Court to try to overturn ObamaCare. I picture the same thing happening with the Western states in some of even the Mid-West and Eastern states. A got a call the other day from the legislator in Minnesota, he said they looked at the bill, really liked it. I said: but in the Eastern state you’re 98% private. He said: yeah, but we have this large federally controlled forest in our state andwe want to take possession of it. So we are looking at your bill to do that.