More than 30,000 acres of open space in the north East Valley and Superstition Mountains area would be preserved from development under a proposed state trust land reform initiative filed Tuesday.
A coalition of education and conservation groups wants the Arizona State Land Conservation Initiative placed on a November 2006 general election ballot.
It seeks to have almost 700,000 of 9.2 million acres of trust lands protected as open space, although municipalities would have to pay market value to acquire and preserve most of it. The coalition must submit almost 184,000 valid petition signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office by July 6, 2006 to get the initiative on the ballot.
If approved, it would ease Scottsdale’s path to acquiring two-thirds of the almost 20,000 acres the city needs to complete the goal of expanding its McDowell Sonoran Preserve to 36,400 acres.
"We would still have a lot of hard work to do, but this is a step in the right direction," said Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross. "I will be supporting it and working to make sure it’s successful."
About 16,000 acres near the East Valley in Pinal County also would be made eligible for conservation. A previous land trust reform proposal failed to win support from state lawmakers in the last legislative session. The new proposal is an improved version, said Andy Laurenzi of the Sonoran Institute, a leader of the reform coalition.
Most important, it has strong support from public education interests, Laurenzi said. Public schools are the primary beneficiaries of revenue from sales and leases of state trust lands. The Arizona Education Association and Arizona School Boards Association are reform coalition members.
Reform requires a state constitutional amendment and federal statute change, but the initiative decision "is a pretty simple choice for voters," he said. "They can protect some of the land or it will all be available for development."