Article 10-1 of the Land Department grazing lease states, “All buildings, fences, wells, pumps, pipelines, corrals, pens, range improvement practices (i.e. root plowing, land imprinting, clearing) and other structures of any kind and nature which exist, at an time, on, above, or below the Subject Land or on a portion thereof and which are not portable in nature are considered improvements under this lease.”
Range Improvements Defined
Arizona Revised Statutes §37-101.10. Defines improvements as “anything permanent in character which is the result of labor or capital expended by the lessee or his predecessors in interest on state land in its reclamation or development, and the appropriation of water thereon, and which has enhanced the value of the land.”
If a lessee desires to construct or make improvements upon the lands, he shall first file with the Land Department an application for permission to construct or make the improvements. The application shall be allowed or rejected as the best interest of the state requires as determined by the Land Department. Unless permission is granted by the Land Department, the applicant shall not be entitled to reimbursement or compensation for improvements placed upon the state lands. Upon expiration or cancellation of the lessee’s lease or permit, improvements placed on the land without approval shall be forfeited and become the property of the state. (A.R.S. § 37-321.A)
Applications for Making Improvements
Two application forms are available for making improvements: Application to Place Improvement and Land Treatment Application.
- The Land Treatment Application is used for practices which have the potential to disturb or impact large acreages of State Trust land, as would be the case in treatments of undesirable plant species by herbicide or mechanical means.
- The Application to Place Improvement is used on site specific or linear projects such as wells, stocktanks, corrals, fences and water pipelines that will disturb a relatively small acreage.
Notification of Other State Agencies
The Land Department notifies other state agencies, such as the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona Department of Agriculture, Arizona State Museum, State Historic Preservation Officer and, depending on the type of improvement practice requested (burning, herbicides), County Health Departments and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. The Range Resource Area Managers will assimilate the comments and recommendations from the reviewing agencies and recommend approval or denial of the application. Supplemental Conditions are often added to the approved permit which are meant to prevent or mitigate the impacts of the proposed improvement, practice on protected plant, wildlife and cultural resources.
Maintenance of Range Improvements
Maintenance of range improvements is allowed as long as the maintenance does not exceed the scope of the original project. This means not adding strands of wire to a fence or increasing the storage capacity of stockponds. Reconstruction of range improvements requires a new application to place improvement to allow the Land Department an opportunity to evaluate potential impacts and to protect the lessee’s investment in the improvement.