April 8, 2012

Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument Proposed by Conservation Groups

by Morgan Skinner

St. George, UT - A proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument submitted to the US Bureau of Land Management by the Center for Biological Diversity based in Tucson, Arizona, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council and The Wilderness Society, both headquartered in Flagstaff, Arizona, has prompted strong local reaction by public officials. Washington County Commissioner Allan Gardner told KCSG News "the proposal is another effort to permanently shutdown all uranium mining on the Arizona Strip that will cost millions in lost tax revenue to the counties involved."

Rachel Tueller, Public Affairs Officer for the BLM Arizona Strip District told KCSG News, "BLM did not solicit nor does it advocate the proposed national monument designation." When asked about the status of this proposal, she said, "It had been referred for review as are all citizen proposals."

The proposed monument has six priorities; (1) Stop old-growth ponderosa pine logging, (2) Protect cultural and archaeological sites, (3) Manage native wildlife and wildlife migration, (4) Reduce road density, (5) Provide voluntary retirement of grazing permits, and (6) Prevent new uranium mines.

Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument Executive Summary

  • Total public land - 1.7-million acres
  • Total privately held - 7,000 acres
  • Number of tribes for whom the land holds significance - 6; Kaibab Paiute, Hopi, Zuni, Hualapi, Havasupai and Navajo
  • Number of archeological sites - more than 3,000
  • Number of acres containing ancient trees and old-growth forest - approximately 300,000
  • Number of wildlife species on the federal
  • Endangered Species - 4
  • Number of wildlife species on the Arizona
  • Species of greatest conservation need list - 22
  • Number of creeks, springs and seeps - more than 125

Headwaters Economics, an independent nonprofit research group based in Bozeman, Montana, prepared a series of reports on the economic performance of western communities near national monuments. Each in-depth report shows important data and trends on demographics, jobs, income, and the performance of specific economic sectors. The research shows that the monument designations help to safeguard and highlight amenities that draw new residents, tourists and businesses to surrounding communities.

Western counties with protected public lands, like national monuments, were found to be more successful at attracting fast-growing economic sectors and as a result grew more quickly, on average, than counties without protected public lands. In addition, protected natural amenities, such as the pristine scenery found at Grand Staircase-Escalante also helped sustain property values and attract new investment.

The Reports:

  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
  • Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument
  • Vermilion National Monument

The conservation groups are networking to encourage a national monument designation even though they have encountered opposition in Congress among the representatives from western states where much of the federal land is located. Washington lawmakers, have introduced legislation to limit the president's use of the Antiquities Act without state and local community input. Thus far the various bills introduced are still pending in committees.

On March 23, Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert signed House Bill 148 that demands the federal government make good on the promises made in the 1894 Enabling Act to extinguish title to federal lands in Utah. The Governor was joined by US Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, Congressman Rob Bishop, Utah Representatives Ken Ivory and Roger Barrus and other stakeholders in a show of unity for the effort to return public lands to state control even though the legislation may be ruled unconstitutional. The legislation creates a principle-driven framework for a structured public dialogue, a potential legal challenge and path forward to re-balance Utah's relationship with the federal government, the Governor said.

The Antiquities Act

Since its passage by Congress in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used for the preservation of public lands managed by government. Sixteen presidents have declared 132 national monuments under the act; eight Republican presidents, eight Democratic presidents. National park units such as the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty, Joshua Tree, Olympic, Zion, and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal were all established originally by presidential monument designation.

Bill Clinton created the most monuments, nineteen, and expanded three others. Arizona has the largest number of national monuments with eighteen followed by New Mexico with twelve and California with ten.

There are five National Monuments in Utah:

  • Natural Bridges designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908
  • Timpanogos Cave designated by President Harding in 1922
  • Hovenweep designated in 1923 by President Harding
  • Cedar Breaks designated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933
  • Grand Staircase-Escalante designated by President Clinton in 1996

Six federal agencies in four departments manage the 101 current National Monuments. A single agency, the National Park Service manages 96 monuments, while five are co-managed by two agencies. The Bureau of Land Managment manages sixteen National Monuments, two with the National Park Service and one with the US Forest Service. Only 75 of the NPS's 76 National Monuments are official units because the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument overlaps with Lake Mead National Recreation Area.