Since statehood, the Arizona Land Department has been hampered by constitutional restrictions on land trades that may be in the public interest. Its mission is too narrowly defined as just auctioning off state lands in the path of development.
That needs to change, and thankfully a coalition of groups has come up with a proposal to reform the Arizona Land Department so that some scenic state lands in the path of development can be preserved while maximizing proceeds from sales of other parcels.
Every few years the state Legislature has put a provision on the ballot to give the Land Department more leeway in exchanging parcels. And every time voters have heeded the warnings of the Sierra Club (see column on Opinion 2 today) that the department can't be trusted to act in the public's best interests.
The land-exchange measure, Proposition 100 on the Nov. 2 ballot, includes several safeguards that should answer the Sierra Club's fears. The Tribune recommends a “Yes” vote on Proposition 100.
If, however, the measure is defeated again this year, it or a similar proposal should be included in comprehensive Arizona Land Trust reforms that the Legislature is expected to work on next year. But voters should be on notice that the Sierra Club has opposed even the consensus recommendations drawn up by the reform coalition.
Real reform of state Land Department policies will require the Legislature and voters to reject the extremist posture of the Sierra Club that has blocked reasonable reforms to date.