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Our View: La Paz federal land purchase should be model for country

October 22, 2017 GMT

It’s easy to get lost in the big, big-picture question of whether state and local governments should take over more federal land.

In La Paz County, it’s being done the right way. An effort to allow the county to buy 8,000 acres from the Bureau of Land Management is now working its way through Congress. The county’s vision is to create solar power development in the area, creating jobs and tax revenue.

U.S. Rep Paul Gosar and Sen. Jake Flake are spearheading the efforts with bills introduced in their respective chambers.

Those who oppose federal land transfers to state or local governments generally raise the specter of oil wells, denuded forests, housing tracts and other developments that hurt the quality of the land and the environment.

Put the proposed La Paz transfer in perspective. In a county with just over five percent private taxable land, finding a place to create any kind of sizeable enterprise is difficult. The 8,000 acres in question are, to most appearances, open scrub desert producing no revenue to anyone.

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Importantly and significantly, it’s getting a full hearing in Congress. That means interested parties and chime in and the special interests get to plead their cases. It’s an open process, ideally producing a result that is in the public’s best interest.

It contrasts starkly with the executive orders that have created de-facto wilderness out of hundreds of thousands of acres in the West. Given a choice between one president’s whim and the full vetting of Congress, we’ll take the latter every day.

By itself, the sale at fair market value of the land to the county doesn’t change the county’s tax picture as it would still be untaxed government land. It would be to the county’s financial detriment to just sit on the property.

For the sale to make any sense, the land would need to be leased for power development.

Considering the location, it’s a pretty good county bet.

The proposed Ten West Link transmission line is planned to run through the area, allowing solar power a convenient way to link with the power markets.

La Paz needs this. And America needs to use this legislative approach as a model for selectively determining whether there aren’t better uses for some lands than the way in which they’re currently held.

— Today’s News-Herald