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Congress has not heard you.

A few months ago, research by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and ONX Maps revealed that public access to over 16 million acres of public lands across the west -- 243,000 acres in Arizona -- is blocked by private land holdings. This can be because a private landowner owns as little as 50 feet of a roadway that they put a locked gate on.

Additional research shows an additional 6 million acres of state trust lands across the west -- 1.31 million acres in Arizona -- are off-limits for public use. This brings Arizona’s total loss of recreational lands to 1.55 million acres.

One solution is for Congress to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This would not cost taxpayers one dime as the LWCF is funded by a royalty from offshore oil and gas leases. But Congress continues to play games with the funding for the LWCF, often diverting it to pet -- non-conservation -- projects. One of the purposes of the LWCF is to fund public access to public lands.

Tell your representatives to fully and permanently fund the LWCF. You can do this online: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials.

For Arizona state trust lands -- well, this is a tougher nut to crack. The Arizona Legislature would need to pass legislation to get the State Land Department to alter its rules and attitude toward public use of state trust lands.

Arizona state land is not public land. It is land that the state owns for the benefit of certain beneficiaries like the public schools and the prison system. To enter state trust lands, you need a recreational permit which costs $15 per year and has several limitations on approved activities.

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For the state to require a permit for you to enter state trust lands is fine. The problem is that 1.3 million acres of state trust land that is landlocked with no way for you -- permit or not -- to gain access to it. By the way, an Arizona Hunting or Fishing license is considered a state land permit, with restrictions.

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For some state land parcels, the solution could be as simple as unlocking a gate or posting new rules for recreation access. For other parcels, it would require obtaining an easement and building a road.

One solution might be for the state land permittee -- often a rancher -- to be required to provide permitted recreational access as a part of their grazing permit rather than the default being to deny it.

If you live in Flagstaff -- Arizona Legislative District 6 -- contact: https://www.azleg.gov/emailazleg/?legislatorId=1895

We should be thankful that Arizona held on to most of its state trust lands, unlike some other states, and that land totals over 9 million acres. But, can we not figure a way for all the residents of Arizona to benefit from access to that land too, including the 1.31 million acres that are landlocked?

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