It is imperative that we as hunters and conservationists raise our voices when issues arise that trigger vital conservation concerns. One of those issues is happening right now within the borders of your home state.
The Obama administration is considering a presidential designation to create a 1.7 million-acre Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument. Such a move could have a detrimental impact on wildlife, wildlife management, hunter access, water rights and other associated issues, and all without any public input or Congressional oversight whatsoever.
Please read over the letter below from the Arizona Game and Fish Commission regarding a federal initiative and take action.
M. David Allen
RMEF President and CEO
PROPOSED GRAND CANYON WATERSHED NATIONAL MONUMENT: RED FLAGS AND POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission opposes the unilateral Presidential designation of a new 1.7 million acre National Monument in the Grand Canyon Watershed (Monument). This designation, which would incorporate lands currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in a multiple-use framework, would have potential adverse impacts to wildlife and resource management, traditional land uses, and associated economic activity. Several environmental organizations, along with three of Arizona’s nine U.S. Representatives, are advocating for this unilateral executive designation. Several key points illustrate why this is wrong for Arizona:
Creating another national monument, without input from Arizona stakeholders, denies a voice to those most affected. No designation of a national monument should take place without public discussion and approval of Arizona residents, stakeholders, and Congress. Such an important decision deserves a transparent process with a robust discussion of the consequences that such a designation brings.
The proposed monument would add to a funding shortfall the federal government is already struggling to overcome. The current estimated shortfall in deferred maintenance at existing national parks and monuments is $11.5 billion; Grand Canyon National Park is 5th on that list with backlogged projects totaling $330 million. Adding an additional 1.7 million acres to that system is fiscally irresponsible.
Forested areas within the proposed monument are at risk of catastrophic wildfire and in need of restoration. The proposed monument includes some of the most extensive tracts of old-growth ponderosa pine forest in the Southwest. Decades of fire suppression and hands-off management have created conditions ripe for unnaturally large and intense wildfires that can devastate old growth forests, wildlife habitat, and watershed function. One such event (the 2006 Warm Fire) has already occurred within the area. Under the current multiple-use framework, restoration efforts that include mechanical thinning and prescribed burns have been delayed by administrative appeals and controversial litigation. Placing the area under a more restrictive designation will make essential restoration projects even more litigious and difficult to implement.
Current management of areas within the proposed monument is sustainable and has public and partner support. Multiple-use management of BLM and USFS lands within the proposed monument is driven by resource management plans incorporating extensive public involvement, the best available science and expertise provided by the state wildlife agency. Designating a new monument via unilateral executive authority undermines extensive prior collaboration, agency planning, and public support for existing management of this area.
Extensive tracts of public land near or within the proposed monument are already protected by special designations. These include the Grand Canyon Game Preserve (600,000 acres), 8 National Parks/Monuments (4.9 million acres) and 9 Wilderness Areas (400,000 acres). Additional special designations like the proposed monument will adversely impact sustainably-managed working landscapes that are central to the social and economic fabric of Arizona.
Designation will add new layers of bureaucratic process and delay needed management actions. Once designated, the responsible federal bureaucracy will need to develop a new resource management plan for the Monument, a process that has taken an average of 10 years for other recently designated Arizona monuments. Until the plan is completed and has withstood potential administrative and legal challenges, many management actions will be placed on hold, compromising wildlife habitats, wildlife populations and forest health.
Designation will impede proactive and effective management of wildlife populations and habitats within the monument. Wildlife management activities will require more complex planning by agencies that are already understaffed, and will face challenges from special interest groups philosophically opposed to active management to benefit wildlife and other resources. Wildlife translocations, maintenance/development of water sources, and habitat restoration projects may be delayed or prohibited, impeding the state’s ability to meet its trust responsibilities and diminishing Arizona’s wildlife management authorities. Designation also allows federal monument managers to make management of wildlife resources a secondary concern to maintaining “solitude, “naturalness,” and other characteristics associated with national parks and wilderness areas.
The proposed monument includes some of the most socially and economically important hunting areas in the United States, including the iconic Kaibab deer herd range, portions of the Arizona Strip that produce trophy mule deer and areas south of the Grand Canyon known for trophy bull elk. Over time, an inability to properly manage these populations and their habitats may result in decreased wildlife populations, reduced hunter opportunities, and loss of revenues that directly support conservation and Arizona communities.
Monument designation sets the stage for future, more restrictive land use allocations and designations, further impeding public access, hunting, and management flexibility. Areas within the proposed monument determined to have “wilderness characteristics” would face activity restrictions similar to wilderness designation. USFS and BLM lands within the proposed monument could be transferred to the National Park Service, in which case that agency’s narrower mission and even greater restrictions on management and recreational activities may be applied, including the prohibition of hunting. Further, national monuments in Arizona have historically been converted to national parks.
Conclusion: Unless consensus can be reached among Arizona stakeholders, dedicated funding is allocated to overcome existing and future maintenance shortfalls, traditional land uses are protected, and proactive wildlife and forest management actions can go forward unimpeded, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission remains opposed to unilateral Presidential designation of the proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument.
Please contact the various government representatives below to let them know of your concern:
Representative Ann Kirkpatrick
201 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Representative Raul Grijalva
1511 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Representative Ruben Gallego
1218 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
The Honorable Sally Jewell
Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C St., N.W. Washington, DC 20240
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W. Washington, DC 20250