BY LINDA BENTLEY | MAY 15, 2013
When it comes to dust violations, not even state is immune
Unlike federal lands that are managed for the benefit and use of the public, Arizona State Trust lands are not public lands
DESERT HILLS – Jackie Dean, a Desert Hills resident, recently contacted the Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) upon learning that it had closed Section 32, a 644-acre parcel between Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue, bounded by Cloud Road to the south and Joy Ranch Road to the north, even to those who had obtained recreational permits.
Long used by area residents for horseback riding, Dean was perplexed to find the area closed with “No Trespassing” signs posted on March 13, 2013.
On May 2, Dean received an e-mail from Bill Boyd, ASLD legislative policy administrator, explaining the closure was actually made in 2002 after the ASLD received a fugitive dust violation citation from Maricopa County for that site.
According to Boyd, trespass activity and off-road use resulted in large quantities of fugitive dust. And, because Section 32 is part of the designated PM-10 non-attainment area, the ASLD closed the section.
In his e-mail to Dean, Boyd said signs were previously placed around the perimeter of the property and would be reposted in the near future.
He also explained some background on the State Trust lands and misconceptions people may have about the land being “public lands.”
According to the ASLD, unlike federal lands, under the management of the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management for the benefit and use of the public, Arizona State Trust lands are not public lands.
On February 24, 1863, the Territory of Arizona was established by an Act of Congress, which reserved Sections 16 and 36 of each township for the benefit of the common schools.
On June 20, 1910, the State Enabling Act was passed and allowed the Territory of Arizona to prepare for statehood.
In addition to the previously designated Sections 16 and 36, the Enabling Act assigned Section 2 and 32 of each township to be held in Trust for the common schools.
The need for other public institutions were also considered by Congress, and through the Enabling Act, more than 2 million additional acres were allocated to be held in Trust for the benefit of certain public institutions.
The approximately 9.28 million acres of Arizona State Trust lands are managed by the ASLD for the benefit of 13 identified Trust beneficiaries, which include public schools and prisons.
A “Recreational Use Permit” issued by the ASLD is both temporary and revocable, while lands leased for agriculture, mining, commercial or military purposes are not open to recreational use.
Other Trust lands may be closed to some or all recreational uses due to hazardous conditions, dust abatement, in coordination with the Arizona Game & Fish Department or based on certain state, county or local laws or ordinances.
Recreational permits allow for limited privileges to use State Trust lands for some recreation. Recreation under the permit is limited to hiking, horseback riding, picnics, bicycling, photo-graphy, sightseeing, and bird watching. Camping is restricted to no more than 14 days per year. Off-Highway Vehicular travel on State Trust Land is not permitted without proper licensing.
And while a person may hold a recreational permit, it does not allow the use of Trust lands closed by order of the Arizona State Land Commissioner, as is the case with Section 32.
Dean questioned why the section was closed to all uses, especially equestrian use, when it appeared the dust violation may have been the result of unauthorized off-road vehicle use.
However, Boyd responded by stating the order closing Section 32 is a “non-appealable action.”
Pointing out how realtors in the area continue to advertise horse properties as being near state land with riding trails, Dean said it was the reason she moved into the area.
Arizona State Trust lands are not public lands, although they may be found interspersed throughout the state with public, private and tribal lands.
According to the ASLD, “Any activity on Trust land requires permission, generally in the form of a permit or lease, and to be on Trust land without a permit is a violation of various laws and statutes. Any activity not expressly approved is therefore illegal,” and local law enforcement agencies (city or county) have the authority and responsibility to enforce laws on State Trust land.