Phoenix – Earlier this month, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney made statements to the Reno-Gazette Journal calling into question the purpose of public lands in Western states like Nevada, saying “I don’t know why the government owns so much of this land.” He went on to say, “So I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land, so I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, I’m about to hand it over.’ But where government ownership of land is designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state, I would find that to be unacceptable.”
As Mr. Romney visits Arizona this week, Environment Arizona’s Advocate Bret Fanshaw made the following statement in response:
“When Mr. Romney studies the purpose of public lands in Arizona, he’ll see that their purpose is clear: they are essential elements of our local economy, critical to our quality of life and a foundation of our state’s natural heritage.
“What former Gov. Romney will recognize once he tours our beautiful state is that from the Grand Canyon to the Red Rocks, Arizona’s magnificent federal public lands provide recreational opportunities as well as much-needed economic activity, especially for rural communities. In fact, according to a report by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released this summer, recreation on federal public lands brought in over $1.9 billion to Arizona’s economy in 2010 and supported 21,364 jobs.
“This year, we’ve seen major progress on protecting public lands in Arizona. In the face of thousands of claims to mine for uranium next to Grand Canyon National Park, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar listened to more than 300,000 Americans and protected over 1 million acres from mining for the next twenty years. Mr. Romney should promise to protect Arizona’s national treasures rather than threatening to turn them over to the drilling and mining companies that threaten irreversible damage.
“It is clear that public lands in Arizona and across the Western United States deserve to be protected and used wisely for the benefit of current and future generations. We, as Arizonans, cherish our public lands and we hope that Mr. Romney learns to value them too.”