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Arizona's prized hunting areas may close

Arizona restricting public lands and hunting opportunity

United States Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) sent a letter to President Obama on March 10 stating that Obama needs to seriously consider not designating a proposed 1.7 million acre national monument in Arizona. Environmental groups pushing for The Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument in Arizona include the Sierra Club, the Center For Biological Diversity, the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council and Environment Arizona. This will severely impact what is arguably some of the best trophy mule deer and elk hunting areas in the nation if this national monument push is approved. Affected areas are Unit 9 and Units 12AE, 12AW12B (Kaibab), and 13A (Arizona Strip). If this passes, these units will lose the majority of their legendary hunting grounds. Locking up this land and reserving it as a National Monument is a major insult to sportsman all across the country. In fact, in 2012, Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted against any support for a monument in this area.

This is another attempt by environmental groups to lock up land so the American public cannot use it.

Arizona Strip trail camera 2

“This proposal … extends far afield from the intent of the Antiquities Act by seeking to lock away 1.7 million acres of land in Arizona — an area larger than the State of Delaware — from hunting, livestock, wildfire prevention, mining, and certain forms of outdoor recreation and tourism,” write Senators McCain and Flake. [T]he greatest threat to the watershed of the Grand Canyon is the ongoing 15-year drought in the Southwest. A national monument designation does nothing to address the historically low snowmelt or surface water levels that feed the Colorado River and its tributaries. Arguably, the creation of a new monument might worsen watershed health if land managers and private property owners are restricted from thinning the area’s overgrown forests or if hunters are barred from culling overpopulated wildlife.”

Hunters need to reach out to Senators immediately on this issue. Currently only environmental groups have endorsed this proposed designation. This area is already heavily managed by the state and protections are already in place that deal with old growth logging, cattle grazing, mining and road additions.

The full letter appears below:

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write in opposition to any unilateral executive action to designate more national monuments in Arizona, and we specifically oppose recent requests that you designate a “Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument” in northern Arizona. Such proposals, without the necessary support from state leaders, congressional delegation, and proper reviews should not advance. This proposal, in particular, extends far afield from the intent of the Antiquities Act by seeking to lock away 1.7 million acres of land in Arizona – an area larger than the State of Delaware – from hunting, livestock, wildfire prevention, mining, and certain forms of outdoor recreation and tourism. What’s more, as noted by Supreme Court precedent, such a designation could also have grave consequences for surface and groundwater rights in Arizona.

Aside from federal overreach, the greatest threat to the watershed of the Grand Canyon is the ongoing 15-year drought in the Southwest. A national monument designation does nothing to address the historically low snowmelt or surface water levels that feed the Colorado River and its tributaries. Arguably, the creation of a new monument might worsen watershed health if land managers and private property owners are restricted from thinning the area’s overgrown forests or if hunters are barred from culling overpopulated wildlife. Arizona cannot afford to have its hands tied when it comes to controlling wildlife populations, enhancing its water supplies, and preventing wildfires.

This monument proposal would also further unravel a longstanding agreement made by a number of environmental organizations and relevant stakeholders in support of a multiple-use philosophy across much of this area. As part of a locally driven collaborative process that included local miners and cattle growers, Congress passed the Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984 with the full understanding and intention that federally regulated mining and grazing would continue on much of the Arizona Strip and the Kaibab National Forest.

We of course support preserving the Grand Canyon for the enjoyment of future generations—the existing national park does just that. The Park’s powerful, awe-inspiring landscape attracts over 5 million visitors from across the United States and abroad each year. Ensuring the protection of this crown jewel is the civic duty of every Arizonan and American, and we appreciate the heartfelt motivation by those in Congress who initially backed this concept. However, the current monument proposal is ill-conceived, single-minded, and impractical to implement, and we respectfully urge you to disregard it.   

Sincerely,

John McCain

Jeff Flake

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