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Arizona Congressmen Ask Feds To Eliminate 4 National Monuments

Ironwood Forest
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management)
Ironwood Forest National Monument.

Three of Arizona’s congressmen are urging the Trump administration to eliminate some of the state’s national monuments.

That comes as the federal government finishes gathering public input on whether a handful of these designations across the country should stay in place.

About 2 million acres of federally protected land in Arizona could be in question as Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke reviews four monuments: Ironwood Forest northwest of Tucson, the Sonoran Desert southwest of Phoenix, the Vermillion Cliffs near the Grand Canyon's north rim and Grand Canyon-Parashant, which encompasses more than 1 million acres west of the canyon.

Republican Congressmen Andy Biggs, Trent Franks and Paul Gosar want all of that land freed up.

In a recent letter to Zinke with other Western Caucus house members, they say the monuments limit energy exploration and ranching, result in poor land management and go against the wishes of locals, among other reasons.

The letter states:

Of the Ironwood Forest: "This monument prevents multiple-use on State Trust lands and has subsequently caused harm to the common schools beneficiary, K-12 education."

Of the Sonoran Desert: "The monument proclamation explicitly prohibited future mineral and geothermal energy production, terminated grazing leases and allowed for significant road closures."

But supporters of public land like John Reuter with the League of Conservation Voters warn that removing these protections could open up the land to development and limit public access.

“The real goal of extreme members of Congress is to tear down these beautiful places, so they can actually dig up natural minerals, do extraction, gas drilling and oil," Reuter said. "We think these places are better preserved as places for families to go and enjoy together.”

Reuter cites a recent poll from Colorado College that found more than 75 percent of Arizonans want to keep the existing monuments.

Reuter said in other western states like Idaho, members of Congress have said they do not want their state's monuments eliminated.

"It's really disappointing to see congressmen in Arizona not standing up for these places," he said.

Arizona has more monuments under review than any other state except for California.

Monday is the deadline for the public to submit comments.

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.