PHOENIX Nov 7 Arizona voters on Tuesday
defeated a ballot measure contesting ownership of the Grand
Canyon and other federal lands in the state, handing another
defeat to the "sagebrush revolt" by Republicans in Western
Proposition 120, which lost by a 2-to-1 margin, would have
amended the state's constitution to declare Arizona's
sovereignty and jurisdiction over the "air, water, public lands,
minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the
Republicans argued that federal retention of the land hurts
the economy of the Western states and leaves them struggling to
fund public education, nurture their economies and manage their
forests and natural resources.
Opponents, including the Sierra Club, said the measure was
unconstitutional and would have saddled Arizona with lands it
could not afford to maintain.
"I'm not surprised because the people of Arizona support
public lands. The legislature has been consistently out of step
with that," Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club's Grand
Canyon chapter, told the Arizona Republic newspaper.
The Sierra Club pegged the area targeted by the measure at
between 39,000 and 46,700 square miles (101,000 and 121,000
square km) - or 34 percent to 41 percent of the entire state.
The initiative was the latest move in a decades-old
federal-state skirmish over control of a wide range of natural
resources in Western states, often pitting mining, drilling and
logging companies against those seeking to protect the
The efforts have had mixed success. In May, Arizona Governor
Jan Brewer vetoed a state bill calling on Washington to
relinquish the title to 48,000 square miles (124,000 square km),
arguing that it created uncertainty for existing leaseholders on
federal lands in difficult economic times.
But similar legislation was signed into law by Governor Gary
Herbert in neighboring Utah in March, despite warnings from
state attorneys that it was likely unconstitutional and would
trigger a costly and ultimately futile legal battle.