Prop 119 good for military, habitat
Arizona's U.S. military installations and their missions are essential to preserving America's national security and Arizona's economic well-being – providing a cumulative economic impact of $9.1 billion dollars and supporting more than 96,000 jobs.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has identified preserving high-quality native habitat, and limiting encroachment of incompatible land uses, as essential actions to maintaining military readiness – and Arizona bases' viability.
Voters have two key opportunities before us to ensure the continued viability of these military installations: State Trust Land reform on November's ballot, and proactive action by our members of Congress to preserve federal public lands through the Sonoran Desert Heritage plan.
Arizona's ballot Proposition 119 would amend our state constitution to authorize the trade of state trust lands for federal acres to protect military facilities in Arizona. Proposition 119 would allow Arizona to address incompatible uses encroaching upon military bases through a reasonable and safeguarded process of land exchange.
We must also manage non-state trust lands – in particular, federal public lands – in ways that address two fundamental military needs: military airspace and quality habitat for native species. Yes, preserving quality habitat for native species is a military need in certain circumstances.
By preserving intact habitat and native species on public lands off-base, we minimize the possibility that Luke, the Goldwater Range, MCAS Yuma or Yuma Proving Ground will become refuges of last resort for endangered species. Conservation today avoids future costly alternatives, such as training workarounds or replacement of existing test and training capability.
The Sonoran Desert Heritage plan would protect key parts of our desert landscape as National Conservation Areas and Wilderness Areas.
The plan complements the Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI), which supports military readiness by preserving natural habitat on non-DoD lands to reduce on-base habitat restriction requirements; by protecting compatible land uses around bases; and by preserving open space that adds value to surrounding communities. In the several years that REPI has been operational, DoD has spent more than $633 million preserving 215,000 acres of non-DoD lands in 24 states.
The Sonoran Desert Heritage plan is a no-cost conservation easement for the viability of our military installations. The plan is also the single best tool for preserving quality Sonoran Desert habitat and native species, and for preserving the land as it is today for future generations. Quite simply, it is a win-win. The next step is for our congressional leaders in Washington to create legislation that will enact this pragmatic solution.
The benefits of conservation go beyond saving a beautiful desert landscape.
President Fighter Country Partnership to Support Luke Air Force Base