WILLIAMS, Ariz. - A representative from the city of Williams joined multiple public and private entities that oppose the establishment of Grand Canyon Watershed Monument during a public discussion sponsored by Congressman Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, in Kingman April 11.
Williams City Councilman Frank McNelly joined with small business owners, sportsmen, farmers, ranchers, elected officials and other stakeholders for a public session in Kingman that roundly criticized the proposed 1.7 million acre monument.
During the event, Gosar heard from concerned citizens for more than three hours on the need to reform the Antiquities Act and the negative impacts that would result should President Obama create the national monument under presidential decree.
McNelly went to the event as a representative of Williams City Council and as a private rancher. The city council recently passed a resolution opposing the establishment of the monument.
McNelly said he and other council members are frustrated that state leaders have not consulted with local northern Arizona community members about the monument.
"It is also alarming that Representative Kirkpatrick has asked the president to do it and did not take the time to ask the people who live and work here what we think," McNelly said.
He said the land is appropriately managed now and the council sees no reason for the designation of a monument.
"We depend on the long term sustainable use of these lands," said McNelly during his testimony at the meeting. "The Forest Service, BLM and private lands make up the base or root that provides the livelihood for a large segment of the population here in northern Arizona."
The monument would encompass all of the north Kaibab and Tusayan ranger districts of the Kaibab National Forest as well as lands on the Arizona Strip north of the Colorado River. All lands are currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona State Trust Lands, along with approximately 28,000 acres under private ownership.
According to the proposal, the designation of the monument will protect wildland species and rare plants, protect cultural and archaeological sites, manage wildlife migration routes, reduce road density, provide retirement of grazing rights and prevent new uranium mines.
Opponents say the designation is unnecessary and the land is already protected by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
"The people of Arizona are our stakeholders, and to that end, we support the multiuse concept on our public land. That approach allows us to provide the most recreational opportunities with respect to wildlife for whatever pursuit a citizen desires, from hunting, to fishing, wildlife watching, boating, hiking, camping, photography, or OHV use," said AZGFD commissioners opposing the monument designation in a Jan. 2016 letter to President Barack Obama. "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."
But supporters of the monument say management and access to the area will generally remain as it is now. The new designation would better protect the area by creating buffer zones and migration corridors for wildlife, protect old-growth ponderosa pine and mixed conifer, reduce non-climate stressors by limiting uranium exploration, prevent resource development harmful to Native communities, and create new resource management plans for grazing.
Polls show that Arizonans vary in their support for the monument. U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva is sponsoring the bill and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, and the Center for Biological Diversity are among the bill's supporters.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, Governor Doug Ducey, Arizona State Land Commissioner Lisa Atkins, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department oppose the designation.
Those who spoke against the monument during the Gosar public session represent the industries and recreational pursuits that could be affected if the designation is made.
Opponents such as the Coconino County Farm Bureau and Cattle Growers Association and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce fear it will restrict access to the land and ultimately ban mining, ranching and energy production and transmission.
"I have heard people say we need to protect the land," McNelly said during the session. "To them protection means restrictions on its use. Does this mean the land needs protection from the people who live and work there? The land is a piece of our livelihood and our future.
"How do you justify the restrictions of monument status to the recreationists, hunters, ranchers, loggers, miners and most of all, the communities within or adjacent to it? The Williams City Council voted unanimously on a resolution to oppose the monument. I don't have statistics or color brochures but I have lifelong local experience to know the land needs to be used and the people can and do use it wisely. Arizona has enough Monuments and National Parks."