Groups gather at Arizona Capitol to call for environmental action, representation

Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2022 - 4:53pm
Updated: Thursday, January 6, 2022 - 11:07am
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Representatives from environmental groups, faith-based organizations, science and government on Wednesday gathered at the Arizona state Capitol Rose Garden to present their priorities for the governor and Legislature.

Rep. Andrés Cano (D-District 3), the ranking member on the House Natural Resources Energy and Water Committee, said Arizona is "ground zero for the climate crisis."

"We have an urgent and unique opportunity right in front of us. Mitigating the drought that we are in and creating a smarter, more sustainable economy will not only save our state in the long run, but it will spur innovation and strengthen our economy," he said.

The group called for action on climate change, water, and land protection and restoration.

In a statement issued after the press conference, it also asked for bills to measure and limit groundwater pumping in the state, especially outside active management areas and in areas where it can affect river flows. It requested that leaders consider sustainability in policies affecting growth and development, agricultural practices and the reclamation and treatment of wastewater flows.

"We know that these issues may not be on the agenda for the majority at the Legislature or the governor right now. But they should be, and we are committed to making sure these important issues are not ignored," said Sandy Bahr, director of the Arizona chapter of the Sierra Club, which called the press conference and issued the release.  

The speakers also expressed support for President Joe Biden's ambitious plan to protect 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

But this week, the anniversary week of the Jan. 6 insurrection, remarks also emphasized issues like respect for the will of voters, gerrymandering, treatment of tribal communities and environmental justice. 

"We care not only about being stewards of the Earth. We believe that each person's voice is sacred, and we express our voice through our vote. Further, we believe it is our duty to protect the voices of our neighbors," said Sarah King, chair of the Arizona Faith Network Earth Care Commission and board member of Arizona Interfaith Power and Light.

Cyndi Tuell, the Arizona/New Mexico director of the Western Watersheds Project, said the environmental community needs to  acknowledge the "extremely harsh, genocidal and racist" history of federal publicly managed lands.

"What we need to do is ask the communities that have been impacted, and that will be impacted, what we can do to help and to stop perpetuating the displacement," she said.

Tuell added that she hopes Biden's program will include tribal communities as coequals in the process rather than as "trustees to be managed by the federal government."

"There is no environmental movement except for the environmental justice movement. And our house is on fire; we need to take action and we need to take urgent action," she said.

Science Sustainability