Senate candidates Martha McSally and Mark Kelly laid out their visions of public land management for Arizona on Friday in two separate online forums hosted by the Arizona Trail Association.
The online forums took place ahead of their only scheduled debate on Tuesday and today’s voter registration deadline.
Climate change starkly contrasted the candidates, McSally continued her rhetoric of qualifying the scientific consensus that human emissions are its primary driver by saying “there’s a human element to it.” This is consistent with language she used in her 2018 campaign from an interview with the Arizona Republic.
Kelly mentioned climate several times throughout his forum citing it as a threat to the state’s outdoor recreation industry and drought, which aggravated this summer’s Bighorn Fire.
He pitched renewable energy, including hydro-electric, to combat the climate crisis, calling for bipartisanship to shift the state more towards those energy sources but was light on specifics outside of wanting to extend tax credits for home solar systems for 10 years.
McSally only mentioned climate change when explicitly questioned on it. Ignoring it when she discussed the country’s record-breaking wildfire season where over 12.5 million acres in the country have burned at the cost of $2.8 billion in suppression costs as of Oct. 2, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Instead, she focused on the amount of available fuel in national forests and federal land mismanagement.
McSally and Kelly both voiced their support for the Four Forest Restoration Initiative which has the goal of promoting sustainable timber harvest across the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, Kaibab and Tonto national forests.
McSally cited her proposed “Forest Health and Biomass Energy Act” which would take funds from timber sales and incentive companies to harvest and use brush and commercially unviable timber as biomass energy.
McSally also noted efforts to stop funding wildfire efforts with money intended for wildlife management.
McSally stated that America’s emissions are decreasing, a claim according to PoltiFact is correct however the rate of decline has slowed under the Trump administration. Using her statement to continue her campaign’s messaging on China.
“The biggest offenders like China and others are not changing their ways and they’re continuing to have their carbon emissions going up,” she said.
America’s public lands will be key to its future emissions because they’re the source of 20 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions through the federal leasing program according to a 2018 USGS report. In Arizona these lands make-up nearly 40 percent of the state according to the Congressional Research Service contributing to more than 200,000 jobs and more than $21 billion in annual consumer spending in the state according to the Outdoor Industry Association.
Public lands in the country have two mandates that are often at odds with each other to provide recreation, preservation and be a source of natural resources, a fact Kelly pointed out by noting climate change is also a threat to Arizona’s outdoor recreation industry.
Trump wasn’t mentioned much by the candidates. Kelly was asked what he would do about deregulation of environmental bedrock laws by the current administration but didn’t provide much outside of personal anecdotes of his time in space and a call for American leadership and international cooperation. Conversely, Sen. McSally wasn’t presented with this question.
Both voiced support for the recently signed into law Great American Outdoors Act by the president. A move that came nearly three years after President Trump removed 2 million acres from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, which Kelly referred to as “a real tragedy.”
“We can’t let anything like that happen here in Arizona or anywhere else in our country,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s stated legislative goals are in opposition to uranium mining around Grand Canyon National Park, expansion of renewable energy and addressing climate change.
McSally’s stated legislative goals for outdoor recreation are requiring federal agencies to digitize their maps, change the designation of Chiricahua National Monument to a national park, an upgrade to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument’s visitor center, land exchanges in La Paz county and opening up national parks more for dog owners to be able to bring their pets.
To watch a replay of both candidate forums visit Arizona Trail Association on Facebook