Press Release: Monumental "Turkey" Cooked Up
for the Grand Canyon Area
Bureau of Land Management releases draft plan that gives deference to off-road vehicle use and other damaging activities within new northern Arizona monuments.
Jill Ozarski, The Wilderness Society: (720) 289-2688
Kim Crumbo, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council: (928) 638-2304
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter: (602) 999-5790
Don Hoffman, Arizona Wilderness Coalition: (928) 339-4525
November 25, 2005
Flagstaff, AZ – As millions of Americans celebrate this holiday season, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is releasing the draft resource management plan for Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermilion Cliffs National Monuments. Given the date and 1500-page size of the document, an in-depth analysis from the conservation community will not be available until next week.
However, our initial scrutiny of a BLM summary of the plan shows the BLM has ignored the public’s wishes for these special places. During the 2002 scoping phase for the monuments, more than 89 percent of public comments asked for increased protection of the Arizona Strip’s natural and cultural features, including its wild character, solitude, wildlife, and archaeological sites. In addition, more than 85 percent of the comments cited the destruction that off-road vehicles (ORVs) can cause, and asked for road closures or for new restrictions on ORV travel within the monuments.
“The purpose of Arizona’s new monuments is to preserve the grand geology, archaeology, and wildlife that characterizes this remote and wild part of the greater Grand Canyon ecosystem. The BLM’s task is to determine how to protect these unique resources, not if they are to be protected,” said Jill Ozarski of the Wilderness Society. “This draft shows no agency priority to follow those guidelines or listen to the public.”
In the draft plan released today, the BLM plans to allow more than 1,700 miles of ORV routes in the two Monuments, plus an additional 1,000 miles for the non-Monument areas of the Arizona Strip. Many of these ORV routes disrupt the region’s wild and primitive character, threaten the health of wildlife populations, and invite damage to cultural and archaeological resources. For perspective, 2,700 miles is more than the distance to drive from Phoenix to New York. Also, the draft plan commits to preserving wilderness characteristics (naturalness, solitude, opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation) on less than 300,000 acres of the nearly 1 million acres of wilderness-quality lands within the monuments, as submitted to the agency by the Arizona Wilderness Coalition.
“ORV abuses will undermine these untamed, remote areas over time if we simply leave things as they are,” said Kim Crumbo of the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council. “These are national monuments that belong to all Americans. There are already hundreds of thousands of miles of roads and routes open to dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles and other ORVs. There ought to be some places people and wildlife can escape from noise and pollution.”
“These monuments are so rugged and remote that they are now prime habitat for the California condor, the largest bird in North America and an endangered species,” said Sandy Bahr of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We need land management plans that protect these species and the opportunity for this and future generations to see a condor soaring in the wild.”
“Arizona’s monuments are a state and national treasure, with the specific goal of offering visitors primitive recreation, remoteness, and the chance to experience wildlife,” said Don Hoffman, Executive Director of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. “Wilderness and roadless areas in the monuments are critical to the protection of wildlife habitat, and our land managers owe the public a chance to experience wild creatures feeding, hunting, and at play in their natural homes.”
The Arizona Strip is a nickname for the northern Grand Canyon region, a wild, remote area including just over 3 million acres of BLM-managed lands north of the Colorado River in Arizona. It includes both the Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermilion Cliffs National Monuments, as well as the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Parashant and Vermilion Cliffs National Monuments were designated in 2000, specifically to protect some of Arizona’s most spectacular lands and waters, imperiled plants and animals, and archaeological and cultural resources.
The conservation community has submitted proposals for a transportation network and lands to manage for wilderness characteristics as part of the planning process. We have also compiled scientific information to support these proposals, such as archaeological surveys and a report on the threats from roads available at: http://www.wilderness.org/Library/Documents/AZStripTransportation.cfm
The draft plan, as well as a public meeting schedule, can be found directly from the BLM at www.blm.gov/az/ under land use planning.