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Public Lands:
taxes; sale of trust lands

Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: HB2397
Sponsor: Jones
Legislative Session: 2011 Legislative Session

petrified woodHB2397 exempts purchasers of state trust lands from paying taxes on those lands for seven years, but it was also amended significantly on the Senate Floor with very little explanation of the intent of the amendment.  As amended, HB2397 will allow mining on lands that are part of the Petrified Forest National Park expansion area.  These state trust lands were closed to mineral development when the U.S. Congress passed a bill to expand the national park.  Support for this expansion was bipartisan – Senator McCain was a strong supporter, Senator Kyl was recognized by the National Parks Conservation Association for his work on the bill, and both Democrats and Republicans in the Arizona delegation at the time co-sponsored and voted for the Petrified Forest National Park Expansion Act.

 

HB2397 allows the State Land Commissioner to offer mineral exploration permits on state lands on which these permits have been cancelled, terminated, or not renewed, and it allows the Commissioner to offer mineral exploration permits at public auction for state trust lands that have been closed by the Commissioner’s order.  It is clearly aimed at allowing potash mining to go forward on these lands, which are slated to become part of one of Arizona’s three national parks.

Status

05/03/2011 - This passed out of both Houses and was signed by the governor

Action Needed

Unfortunately, it has been signed into law

Background

You might wonder why our U.S. senators did not speak up against this bill to destroy these expansion lands.

Senator John McCain issued a statement supporting the expansion of Petrified Forest National Park.  In it, he said:

 

"I applaud the passage of legislation that authorizes the expansion of the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.”

 

"I commend the community of Holbrook, the concerned landowners within the boundary expansion area, the scientific and research institutions, state tourism agencies, environmental groups such as the National Parks Conservation Association, the Bureau of Land Management, the Arizona State Land Department, among the many others who labored to protect this national treasure. This is a historic opportunity to alleviate major threats to this nationally significant resource and preserve its paleontological treasures for posterity."  

 

And this is from Senator Jon Kyl’s website:

 

“In 2005, I received the National Parks Conservation Association’s “National Parks Achievement Award” for my role in securing the enactment of the Petrified Forest National Park Expansion Act. The measure, which is now law, expands the park to include an additional 120,000 acres of checker-boarded federal, state, and private lands to protect against theft of petrified wood and fossils, pot hunting, vandalism to petroglyph sites, and the environmental degradation caused by mineral exploration.”

The amendment added to HB2397 allows the State Land Commissioner to offer mineral exploration permits on state lands on which these permits have been cancelled, terminated or not renewed, and it allows the Commissioner to offer mineral exploration permits at public auction for state trust lands which have been closed by the Commissioner’s order.  It is clearly aimed at allowing potash mining to go forward on these lands, which are slated to become part of one Arizona’s three national parks.

There already is extensive and destructive mineral (potash) exploration ongoing in the 60% of the Park expansion area which is privately owned. The State Trust Lands represent a minor part of the expansion area, however, they represent some of the richest holdings of fossils, petrified wood and Native American sites including petroglyphs.

Supporting this bill and allowing these lands to be mined is a giant step backward in protecting one of our state’s and our nation’s great treasures, Petrified Forest National Park. 

     
     

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