(Jan. 22, 2016) PHOENIX – The five-member Arizona Game and Fish Commission and 10 former commissioners have sent a letter to President Barack Obama, urging that he not designate 1.7 million acres in northern Arizona as a new Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument.
Calling the proposed monument “a solution to a non-existing problem,” the commissioners said designating this large swath of land as a national monument could impose unnecessary rules and regulations, negatively impact outdoor recreation, and compromise the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s ability to manage and conserve the public's wildlife.
The commissioners support the multiple-use concept on public land, as that approach provides the most wildlife-related recreational opportunities for the public and allows the commission and department to work closely with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on sustainable resource management.
“That partnership is not broken, and we do not believe another layer of bureaucracy is needed to conserve or ‘protect’ 1.7 million more acres on the Arizona Strip or Kaibab National Forest,” the commissioners said in the letter.
The commissioners countered several claims by monument proponents, pointing out that:
- There is no threat to the migration corridor for deer between Arizona and Utah. If an issue were to arise, we should seek to remedy and mitigate it, not create another set of rules.
- Selected harvest and forest management is a viable management tool and shouldn’t be eliminated. Catastrophic wildfires over the last decade demonstrate the importance of regulated forest management.
- The area is already protected from uranium mining under a moratorium until 2032, at which time there may be new, environmentally safer technologies that would allow for cleaner extraction.
- Travel management plans in the national forests have already closed many roads. The public shouldn’t be denied reasonable access to their public lands from additional road closures a monument designation might bring.
- Ranchers who are good stewards of both the land and wildlife could be forced out by monument restrictions. Game and Fish works with many ranchers and private landowners who take wildlife needs into consideration.
Finally, the letter pointed out that Arizona already has more national monuments (18) than any other state, and that only 23 percent of the remaining federally owned public land in the state does not have some sort of special designation.
The commissioners concluded that the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and Department can ensure that Arizona’s wildlife is properly managed and conserved by working cooperatively with the Forest Service and the BLM, and they urged the President not to burden Arizona with this unwarranted national monument designation.