PHOENIX -- Ever wonder how we just keep seeing more and more desert fall to sprawl development, traffic, and pollution in central and southern Arizona? Our state government has a special department in charge of 9.3 million acres of your land. Their main mission is to sell it to the highest bidder, almost always a developer. State Lands bureaucrats also lease these lands at bargain rates for damaging livestock grazing, mining, logging, and other abuses.
The Arizona State Land Dept. opened a new Tucson office earlier this year. This office has made it quite clear they are all about selling more land to sprawl developers, and not interested in conservation. State Land salesmen also made it clear they don't want local governments designating state lands within their boundaries as preserves or open space, just 'future growth'. So much for local control, Gov. Napolitano's land man Mark Winkleman keeps setting a tone for more money and pavement.
The Tucson State Lands office is planning to sell off even more of the NW side, and even lands adjacent to Saguaro National Park. When officials raised concerns about impacts to this national treasure, they were rudely rejected by Ron Ruziska, head of the Tucson office.
This out-of-control state agency needs a major shakeup now, starting with the removal of Winkleman. But will the Governor do anything to help provide some balance? The current weak proposal to somewhat conserve a small amount of State Lands is a small start, but hardly a proper answer.
Education interests also need a wake up call that there are better ways -- such as fair impact fees -- than urban sprawl to fund the small state land sales part of the education budget.
Without major reform of the State Land system soon, Arizona will see huge areas sold to the quality-of-life-wrecking sprawl machine, dooming the Grand Canyon State to lame-ass Californication and all the related problems.