Mohave County Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Buster Johnson testified before a Congressional Western Caucus Hearing March 16 at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix.
Johnson joined Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Arizona Chamber of Commerce President Glenn Hamer, Arizona Farm Bureau President Kevin Rogers and Irrigation and Electrical Districts Association of Arizona Counsel Bob Lynch in testifying and answering questions regarding "Washington Barriers to Prosperity and Property Rights in Arizona" before Congressional Caucus members. Congressman Steve Pearce of New Mexico chaired the caucus hearing with Congressmen Paul Gosar, Trent Franks, Ben Quayle and David Schweikert of Arizona attending. This was a return engagement for Johnson, who testified on Feb. 28 in Washington, D.C., at a joint meeting of the U.S. Senate and Congressional Caucuses.
Johnson is also chairman of Quad-State Local Government Authority, which represents Mohave County, Washington County in Utah, Lincoln and Nye counties in Nevada, and Imperial, Kern and San Bernardino counties in California. Johnson is co-chairman of the Arizona/Utah Economic Coalition.
"Governor Brewer set the tone with her comments on the often adversarial relationship Arizona has with the Obama Administration," Johnson said. "Glenn Hamer, Kevin Rogers and Bob Lynch all focused on the detrimental impacts of the federal restrictions currently being placed on western states and how those restrictions hurt our abilities to bring jobs and economic recovery to our communities and energy independence to America."
During the hearing, Johnson pointed out that mining is the backbone of Arizona.
"At today's prices, billions of dollars of wealth have been added to our economy from mining," he testified. "This money has made the state you see today. Without it we would not have progressed to where we are."
He pointed out that mining has improved tremendously over the years concerning safety and protecting the environment.
"We are at the point now in our county were you cannot find a mining site after it has been reclaimed," Johnson said. "Our mining companies are awarded and recognized for their safety. We have set state and federal standards and inspectors verify the outcomes."
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has put more than 1 million Arizona acres off limits to employment and mineral production, he said.
"Why is Salazar cancelling the Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984?" Johnson asked. "That act was agreed upon by all local, state and tribal governments and the federal government, along with conservationists, naturalists, environmentalists and citizens."
Johnson pointed out that unemployment on the Hualapai Reservation was at 25.6 percent and more than 50 percent on the Navajo Nation.
"In Golden Valley, unemployment is at 21 percent," he said. "A little further away, unemployment is at 23 percent in Chloride and 26 percent in Peach Springs. The number of people living below the federal poverty level is pushing 40 percent in the area."
Johnson recalled President Bill Clinton proclaiming the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, which took away another almost 2 million acres of land from economic development.
"This land was removed with no coordination with local governments," he said. "There are over 300 billion tons of clean burning coal along with natural gas and crude oil on this public land. The benefit to our economy is that now 500 visitors a year take advantage of hiking this area."
Salazar "wants our people to work in the tourist industry, which makes them slaves to the government for their survival," Johnson said. "Tourism jobs are seasonal and wages are a third of what they would make in mining. They cannot support families on tourism wages."
Johnson said that mining created Arizona and it is the "key to bringing it back to a financially sound state. Those working in the mining industry are the backbone of America. Let them become the proud Arizona and Utah families they were," which would lead to "$29 billion to the economy of our great country."
Johnson thanked Brewer and Gosar, Franks, Quayle, Schweikert and Pearce.
"The governor and these members of Congress are all strong advocates for the people of Mohave County, Arizona and America," he said. "It will be through their hard work that the Obama Administration's barriers against economic recovery will be removed and Americans can get back to work and, in the process, become energy independent."