By Gerald Flake
Second Vice President
Arizona Farm Bureau
Once again voters turned down proposals to change the rules on state trust land. It will continue to be managed and sold under the criteria of best and highest use and the only method of disposal is at public auction.
It is not that my neighbors and myself do not oppose the idea of maintaining some designated state trust lands from ever being developed. Moreover, we have no issue with preservation – the nature of many parcels does not lend themselves to development and in many cases it is a desirable ethic.
I expect it will be debated again, and I offer some friendly guidelines and lessons:
- Proposals need to respect the concept of trust and the needs and interests of the beneficiaries – all beneficiaries.
- 92% of state trust lands are leased by agriculture – as lessees they are the customers, and the interests of the customers need to be taken into consideration. If language and proposals cloud the ability to lease and make recreational use of the property, voters are less likely to favor a land use proposition.
- Conservation needs to be limited to reserving from development and should not be a competing criteria for the balance of state trust lands.
- We need to understand that beneficiaries do not manage trusts. Trust assets are managed by professionals, and if the State Land department needs more professional resources, then the legislature should provide. Voters should continue to be wary of proposals for new oversight boards that would control the process for the benefit of selected beneficiaries.
Arizona is fortunate to have these splendid assets of over 9 million acres of land. If we have a need to change the process, we must respect the trust. Remember these are trust lands – they are not public lands.