Cold Shoulder

State gives feds the brush-off on open-space preservation plan

Surprisingly, commissioners were skeptical.

"The concept itself makes some sense," says Mohave County Supervisor Jim Zaborsky, "but the problem we have from a Mohave County standpoint is it's much easier for us to deal with the Bureau of Land Management as far as land issues are concerned than with State Land."

Zaborsky and his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, Buster Johnson and Carol Anderson, agree that the State Land Department sets land prices too high for the local market, thereby discouraging potential developers.

Governor Jane Dee Hull says she's not interested in a proposed federal land swap.
Doug Hoeschler
Governor Jane Dee Hull says she's not interested in a proposed federal land swap.

At the meeting, according to Johnson, Hull's environmental adviser, Maria Baier, criticized Babbitt's suggestions, and said that the governor wants to hang on to state trust lands because they produce revenue for schools.

Babbitt pointed out that Hull's idea to protect income-generating state trust lands is to establish an open-space "reserve" from scattered lands many of which are virtually undevelopable anyway. That reserve would require a change in the state constitution because trust lands are supposed to be managed for profit and can't be redesignated unless they are sold.

"If she's so supportive of the kids, why is she taking 270,000 acres out of state trust land without any payment at all?" Babbitt reportedly said. "I think we can do better than that."

"Better than that" is just what the state has in mind, according to Baier.

"Trying to get value out of BLM land for what's being proposed as trade bait is a tall order," she says.

The state trust land in question is "really valuable stuff," she continues. "We're interested. We have priorities. Before we go forward, we'd like to make sure we're made whole for what we're already owed."

Contact Michael Kiefer at his online address: michael.kiefer@newtimes.com

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