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Wednesday, July 27, 2016
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Land lockup forever
Say ‘No’ to National Monuments

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. And it’s about time the states began calling for an end to such designations of huge public land masses.

Most National Monuments have bee declared by a president, and every single time they proclaim the “protection” of such lands, usually for “future generations.” The truth is, the same restrictions imposed at the time of creation of a national monument will continue for perpetuity. There is no “future use” for those “future generations”…just continued restrictions and closures.

There’s a lot more at stake in giving away rights to existing state lands and uses, and some of the issues have included the size of the areas and types of resources protected; the effects of monument designation on land uses; the level and types of threats to the areas; the inclusion of nonfederal lands within monument boundaries; the act’s limited process compared with the public participation and environmental review aspects of other laws; and the agency managing the monument.

Opponents have sought to revoke or limit the President’s authority to proclaim monuments, but so far, pretty much any time the President wants to take away public lands under the guise of “National Monuments”, they get away with it.

Congress is currently considering proposals to preclude the President from unilaterally creating monuments in particular states, and to impose environmental studies and public input procedures, among other changes.

Obviously, Monument supporters favor the act in its present form, asserting that the public and the courts have upheld monument designations and that many past designations that initially were controversial have come to be supported. They contend that the President needs continued authority to promptly protect valuable resources on federal lands that may be threatened.

I vehemently disagree with that thought. There should never be one person making decisions that impact the states, and millions of citizens of the United States. Never has that been more obvious than under the Obama presidency, where he has violated his oath of office and the Constitution of the United States too many times to count, especially with his “Executive orders.” Obama has done more damage to our lands and our liberties than any president in our great history.

Calling the proposed monument “a solution to a non-existing problem,” the Arizona 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 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, they 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.

Just say “no” to any more federal takeovers of state lands, it does nothing but limit use by us, the public, and shuts us out of our own lands.

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