Vekol Valley Grassland Restoration

 

Lowland burrowing frog, Pternohyla fodiens

Lowland burrowing frog, Pternohyla fodiens

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument (FSDNM) recently sent a grant proposal the Bureau of Land Management to conduct research to determine the feasibility of restoring the Vekol Valley Grassland located in the Sonoran Desert National Monument (SDNM).

The Vekol Valley Grassland (The Vekol Valley Grassland prior to the designation of the Sonoran Desert National Monument was classified as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern) is a remnant of a once larger desert grassland community, dominated by tobosa grass Hilaria mutica [Pleuraphis mutica] once ranging from Mexico into central Arizona.  Severe reductions of this grassland community were caused by overgrazing, land development and irresponsible OHV use. Today threats to this community are irresponsible OHV use, smuggling activities, trespass livestock and climate change. The FSDNM has chosen the Vekol Valley Grassland as a priority biological community deserving special attention and advocacy.

 

The Vekol Grassland in the SDNM is approximately 300-acres in area and has four rare amphibians and one record of the rare Arizona mud turtle.

  • Green toad                                                       Bufo deblis
  • Sonoran green toad                                       Bufo retiformis
  • Great Plains narrowmouth toad                  Gastrophryne olivacea
  • Lowland burrowing frog                               Pternohyla fodiens
  • Arizona mud turtle                                         Kinosternon arizonense
Grasslands

Left to right: Sonoran green toad, Arizona mud turtle, Lowland burrowing frog & Great Plains narrowmouth toad.

 

Historically the endangered Sonoran pronghorn once roamed this area. The SDNM has been listed as a possible future site for translocation of the Sonoran pronghorn.

The area was grazed from the early 20th century until the early 21st century. Fortunately grazing is currently prohibited by presidential proclamation, but unfortunately there are trespass cattle and horses in this area since smugglers have cut many sections of fence and destroyed many gates separating the SDNM and the Tohono O’dham Nation. The BLM and the FSDNM have repaired sections of the fence, but as Americans continue to use illegal drugs smuggled from Mexico fences and gates will continue to be cut and destroyed.

In the late 1940s and early 1950 several spreader dikes (levees) were constructed in the area to capture and divert runoff being channeled by the Vekol Wash to numerous pastures. Many of the pastures were planted with a variety of forage grasses to support the livestock operation. Many of the spreader dikes are over 100 yards wide and a few are still functioning as cattle tanks and hold several hundred acre-feet of water. Dense mesquite bosques surround many of the cattle tanks. The bosques provide habitat for many wildlife species and it is thought that the intact cattle tanks and mesquite bosques provide crucial habitat for the rare amphibians.

Several species of waterfowl and shore birds have been observed using these tanks.

Research Questions

The FSDNM proposes to organize a group of scientists and restoration professionals to analyze what is known about the Vekol Grassland and determine what the BLM and its conservation partners should or can do to conserve and restore the Vekol Valley Grassland. Specific questions are:

  1. Can the area be restored? What would restoration look like? How do we measure success?
  2. What are the populations of the rare amphibians?
  3. What should be done with the spreader dikes and cattle tanks?
  4. Do the rare amphibians depend upon the cattle tanks and mesquite bosques for survival?
  5. How does this project affect Sonoran desert and arid grassland conservation regionally?
  6. How would this project influence future Sonoran pronghorn reintroduction efforts?

Research conclusions andmanagement recommendations will be based upon best available scientific data.

Public Engagement

The FSDNM will recruit volunteers for fieldwork and the Scottsdale Community College biology department will integrate fieldwork, i.e. resource inventory into the curriculum.

The FSDNM will present results of this study on its website.

Benefits of the Project

The project will promote:

  • The BLM’s mission for the National Conservation Lands as outlined in the 15-Year Strategy for National Conservation Lands to conserve, protect, and restore nationally significant landscapes and places that have outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations.
  • The BLM’s vision for the National Conservation Lands is to be a world leader in conservation by protecting landscapes, applying evolving knowledge, and bringing people together to share stewardship of the land.
  • That the National Conservation Lands represent a model in which landscape-scale conservation can be achieved through shared stewardship. To carry out its National Conservation Land’s mission, the BLM seeks the help of tribes, communities of interest and place, Friends groups, recreationists, ranchers, business interests, universities, and others to assist in managing for conservation in the context of a larger working landscape and to respect the unique and diverse opportunities that result from these national treasures.
  • Provide clear, consistent policy and guidance that affirms the primacy of the designating proclamation for the Vekol Grassland in planning and management.
  • Provide a scientific foundation for decision-making.
  • Establish a science team to facilitate inter-agency and cross-directorate scientific collaboration, promote science, disseminate research results, and integrate science into management.
  • The use of the Vekol Valley Grassland as an outdoor laboratory for enhancing conservation of natural and cultural resources, consistent with the presidential proclamation.
  • Share what is learned (for example, online forums, publications, training, workshops, conferences) for application on National Conservation Lands and other lands.
  • Answers to proposed research questions.

 

The FSDNM is committed to making the BLM’s National Conservations Lands program a success. This is just one of the many projects the FSDNM will undertake in the future to make triumph a reality.

 

 

Sonoran Pronghorn Update

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. (Dec. 19, 2012) – Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, along with local partner agencies, helped in the relocation of an Arizona endangered species from the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge to Barry M. Goldwater Range West near Yuma, Ariz. Dec. 17-19 and will continue relocation efforts through Dec. 21.

A photo gallery from the Sonoran Pronghorn catch and release can be found at:

http://www.dvidshub.net/image/804482/sonoran-pronghorn-catch-and-release

The Sonoran Pronghorn, an endangered desert sub-species of the antelope family, are currently part of a captive breeding program in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Cabeza Prieta, established in 1939, spans over 56 miles in Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico. The purpose behind this relocation effort is to transfer several Sonoran Pronghorn from the refuge to join with a wild herd of approximately 14 Pronghorn on the Barry M. Goldwater West Range. The animals will be fitted with radio collars, providing both wildlife officials and biologists an improved method to track the wild population without having to disturb the animals in their natural habitat.

MCAS Yuma is also working closely with the U.S. Air Force 56th Fighter Wing, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Border Patrol, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to help protect the Sonoran Pronghorn during this outreach project as well as throughout the year.

As a part of this relocation, Marines and civilian employees of MCAS Yuma have volunteered to assist wildlife officials during the catch and release.

“I’m honored to participate in the Sonoran Pronghorn operation in the coming weeks,” stated Col. Robert C. Kuckuk, commanding officer of MCAS Yuma. “I believe my participation reflects the level of commitment the Air Station and the Marine Corps have to protecting and preserving the lands, animals, vegetation and cultural sites entrusted to our care. Your Marines train hard on these ranges to fight our nation’s wars, but that doesn’t mean we won’t do everything possible to ensure the survival of a species whose habitat shares the same space.”

In preparation of the relocation, a temporary holding pen was constructed in late November by wildlife biologists from the Arizona Dept. of Game and Fish and U.S. Marines from MCAS Yuma’s Range Maintenance Department. 7

“I believe this is a great project that shows the military’s willingness to work closely with other federal and state wildlife agencies to bring the Sonoran Pronghorn back from near extinction,” said Bobby Law, MCAS Yuma’s natural resource specialist. “Of course, the ultimate goal is to get the Sonoran Pronghorn delisted, so they no longer need protection under the Endangered Species Act and are a viable self-sustaining wild herd. This would show that we were successful in our recovery efforts.”

Approximately 100 Sonoran Pronghorn are believed to remain in the wild in the United States. There is also a small population held in a captive breeding program on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Arizona. There are believed to be approximately 650 pronghorn in Mexico.

The Sonoran Pronghorn has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1967. Since this time, the U.S. population very nearly died out in 2002 when a 13-month drought wiped out all but 21 animals. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intervened to prevent extinction by providing water and forage and initiating a captive breeding program.

For more details pertaining to wildlife conservation efforts, please contact Chris Bedinger, Arizona Game and Fish Department, at (928)341-4045 or cbedinger@azgfd.gov.

Contact Cpl. Bill Waterstreet, MCAS Yuma Public Affairs Office, at 928-269-3682 (office) or william.waterstreet@usmc.mil for more information

young pronghorn, photo taken by John Kulberg, AZGFD Volunteer3 year old pronghorn buck, photo taken by Greg Joder, AZGFDpronghorn doe, photo taken by John Kulberg, AZGFD Volunteerpronghorn fawns, photo taken by John Kulberg, AZGFD Volunteer

Take Our Monument Back Update

The Sonoran Desert National Monument has experienced a lot of negative publicity because of the illegal smuggling activities occurring there throughout the past several years and many Americans are fearful of visiting the Sonoran Desert National Monument south of Interstate 8. The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument believe that we should not be intimidated from visiting our public land so we have initiated the Take Our Monument Back program to demonstrate our commitment to the Sonoran Desert National Monument and all public land.

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument have demonstrated this commitment by providing hikes and conservation work projects so that the public can also demonstrate their dedication and love of our public lands.

Petroglyph Hike

On November 4, 2012 the Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument conducted a hike led by Dave Morris to view some spectacular petroglyphs and geoglyphs in the Table Top Mountain Wilderness area. The petroglyphs and geoglyphs are thought to have been made about 1000 years by the ancient Hohokam people.

Fortunately these important cultural resources are protected from OHV use because they are within the wilderness area. Wilderness area designation prohibits the use of motorize vehicles within the wilderness area boundaries. Just the simple act of keeping vehicles out of an area preserves cultural and natural resources does so much to preserve our cultural and natural heritage.

See photos >

Restoration Project

The FSDNM, the Sierra Club and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on December 1, 2012 made significant progress on Taking Our Monument Back. Roughly 7,400 feet of smuggler trail were decommissioned and reclaimed, four signs installed, and one mile of an illegal road was closed, totaling 12,600 feet of road decommissioned or closed.

See photos >

Upcoming in 2013

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument will continue this program throughout the year. We will send out a Spring 2013 calendar of events soon.

Take Our Monument Back Restoration Project

The FSDNM, the Sierra Club and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on December 1, 2012 made significant progress on Taking Our Monument Back. Roughly 7,400 feet of smuggler trail were decommissioned and reclaimed, four signs installed, and one mile of an illegal road was closed, totaling 12,600 feet of road decommissioned or closed.

National Public Lands Day A Success!

Public Lands Day 2012 was a success thanks to the staff and volunteers at REI, BLM and the Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Fourteen volunteers removed 60 48-gallon bags (approximately 1,200 lbs.) of buffelgrass from the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

If you missed the event, please do not fret. We have more buffelgrass to remove before we can declare the Sonoran Desert National Monument buffelgrass free.

FSDNM Parterships

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument will be partnering with the Bureau of Land Management, Recreation Equipment Incorporated (REI), and the Desert Botanical Garden this fall to remove buffelgrass from the Sonoran Desert National Monument on September 29, 2012. (Check out and Volunteer for the Event)

Sometime ago the Bureau of Land Management contracted the Desert Botanical Garden to map the locations of the invasive plant buffelgrass in the Sonoran Desert National Monument. As would be expected most of the buffelgrass in the Sonoran Desert National Monument occurs near the two highways that dissect the monument.  Fortunately there is not a lot of buffelgrass in the monument so the threats to the ecology of this area are minimal if the invasion can be eliminated soon (See National Public Lands Day article in this edition).

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument scheduled a buffelgrass removal event to celebrate National Public Lands Day. In order to receive national recognition for this effort, the Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument posted this event on the National Environmental Education Foundation’s website (www.publiclandsday.org). Soon after posting, REI staff contacted the Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument to see if REI could make this event part of their community stewardship effort. Of course the answer was yes and so on the 29th REI will have about 25-volunteers in the field.

The Desert Botanical Garden will be on hand for the event to digitally record our progress. It is anticipated that on this day we will have removed approximately 50% of the buffelgrass found in the Sonoran Desert National Monument.  In another event, to be scheduled soon, we will hopefully take out the other 50%.

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument in partnership with the Town of Gila Bend and the Bureau of Land Management will be developing exhibits on the Sonoran Desert National Monument to be displayed in the Gila Bend Town Hall and a nearby local tourist information-retail shop. These exhibits will be the first part of the larger Gateway to the Sonoran Desert National Monument effort.

The purpose of this effort is to make information about and how to access the Sonoran Desert National Monument easier for people who want to experience the grandeur of the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Antiquities Act of 1906

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was passed by the U.S. Congress to give the president of the United States the power to declare federal land through executive order national monuments for the “protection of objects of historic and scientific interest” for all Americans to enjoy and appreciate as part of our collective national heritage.

This important conservation law was passed at a time that much of our nation’s natural and cultural heritage was being exploited for the short term profits of a few people. Today nearly two dozen sites have been designated national monuments in Arizona alone, most of which are national parks.

Presently our natural and cultural resources on public land are experiencing some of the same threats that were faced earlier in our history. Some mining, energy development, logging interests are hoping to develop more of our public land for their operations and they are using some members of congress to make it easier to use these lands and harder for the rest of us to protect our public land from destruction. These congressmen want to limit the president’s ability to declare national monuments by requiring approval by the legislatures of states where the national monuments are to be located. Needless to say these lands are federal lands, owned by all Americans, and are not state lands. Can you image the Arizona state legislature making additional decisions about land management? They cannot even manage the state’s land and property. They had to sell parts of the state capital to balance the state’s budget and now they lease the property back. Wow!

When the Grand Canyon was declared a national monument in 1908 there were considerable efforts to privatize the Grand Canyon. There was even a suggestion to sell drinking water to thirsty Grand Canyon visitors. Fortunately, Theodore Roosevelt with the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which by the way was passed with bipartisan support, declared the Grand Canyon a national monument in 1908.

Our current 112th Congress recently passed HR4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act. The bill is sitting in the Senate waiting to be scheduled for debate. One of the bad parts of this bill is to reduce the president’s ability to designate national monuments by requiring approval of the states where the national monument will be located.

Let’s let our Senators know that we appreciate our national monuments and we support the president’s authority to designate national monuments so that we do not lose our natural and cultural heritage for the short term profits of a few people. If HR4089 was the law in 2011 we would not have the Sonoran Desert or Ironwood Forest National Monuments. If HR4089 was the law in 1908 we might not have the Grand Canyon National Park and what a shame that would be for all Americans, including the millions of foreign visitors who will never forgets its grandeur and the American idea of public land.

Jon Kyl(R – AZ)730 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON DC 20510

(202) 224-4521

Contact Via Web Form

John McCain(R – AZ)241 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON DC 20510

(202) 224-2235

Contact Via Web Form

Proposed Resource Management Plan

The Lower Sonoran and Sonoran Desert National Monument Proposed Resource Management – Final Environmental Impact Statement will be available to the public on June 22, 2012. The plan will have the BLM’s responses to the public’s comments received in 2011. As you may know the FSDNM spent a great deal of effort reviewing, researching and commenting on the original proposal.

The BLM’s original proposal incorporated several management strategies that the FSDNM and others found encouraging. The establishment of dedicated wildlife travel corridors between the SDNM and other protected areas, the elimination of redundant roads, setting aside lands for their wildland characteristics and the elimination of livestock grazing in one allotment are seen as promising proposals.

Some people were disappointed that restoration of degraded lands and special areas as the Vekol Valley received little attention. Hopefully the plan released on June 22 will cover these topics.

Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument members and others can be assured that the FSDNM is dedicated to seeing that these SDNM is managed in the spirit of National Conservation Lands as reflected in the BLM’s Strategic Plan. We’ve recently included a portion of the about section dedicated to the Principles of the National Conservation Lands.

To receive a copy of the Proposed Resource Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement contact the BLM:

Blm_az_ls_sdnm_plan@blm.gov or call 623.580.5500 or 623.580.5526

The BLM website: http://www.blm.gov/az/

Draft Management Resources Plan

The Bureau of Land Management has released the Draft Management Resources Plan (DMRP) for the Sonoran Desert National Monument (SDNM). The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument (FSDNM) will be taking a leading role in the review of the DRMP so that the SDNM will have a solid planning and management foundation. The FSDNM will keep interested parties informed of developments in the review process and will organize a series of public open houses to inform and gather feedback concerning the plan.

To read the DRMP online or contact the BLM and to receive a copy of the draft of the Resource Management Plan.

Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument Response to BLM

Below are the Friends of the Sonoran Deserts National Monument’s comments on the Draft Resource Management Plan as sent to the BLM on November 24th, 2011.

New Wildlife Waters

The Bureau of Land Management’s preferred alternative calls for the construction of new wildlife waters if needed to maintain or enhance wildlife resources. The FSDNM will support establishing new wildlife waters only if it can be demonstrated that the new wildlife waters will not negatively affect existing resources and all laws and regulations are abided by. The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument will support the renovation of existing wildlife waters if all laws and regulations are abided by.

Restoration

Passive restoration of degraded resources should be used when appropriate. Unfortunately there are areas in the Sonoran Desert National Monument such as the Vekol Valley Grassland, areas around North Tank and Gap Well as well as all the livestock waters located in the Sonoran Desert National Monument that have suffered considerably from activities such as unsustainable grazing and irresponsible OHV use.  The Bureau of Land Management should develop and implement a plan that will put the restoration of these and other areas on a faster track for recovery. The Bureau of Land Management has been directed through the Omnibus Public Land Management Act to “conserve, protect and restore nationally significant landscapes for the benefit of current and future generations.”  By engaging in a more aggressive restoration program the Bureau of Land Management will fulfill their duty to manage for climate change as outlined in Secretarial Order (S.O.) 3289 which unequivocally mandates all agencies within the Department of Interior to “analyze potential climate change impacts when undertaking long-range planning exercises, setting priorities for scientific research and investigations, developing multi-year management plans, and making major decisions regarding potential use of resources under the Department’s purview.” S.O. 3289, incorporating S.O. 3226 .This planning process falls squarely under this guidance and Bureau of Land Management must assess impacts from the proposed actions that may directly, indirectly, or cumulatively result in exacerbating climate change within this document.

With particular regard to the Sonoran Desert National Monument, wilderness areas, national historic trails, and other units within the National Landscape Conservation System, Secretarial Order 3308 states that these lands “shall be managed as an integral part of the larger landscape, in collaboration with the neighboring land owners and surrounding communities, to maintain biodiversity, and promote ecological connectivity and resilience in the face of climate change.”

The endangered Sonoran pronghorn is listed in the Monument Proclamation as a Monument object even though Sonoran pronghorn are not currently found on the Sonoran Desert National Monument. It was intended by the framers of the Proclamation to include the Sonoran pronghorn so that future Bureau of Land Management activities should include this species in management plans.

The endangered Sonoran pronghorn’s historic range includes the Sonoran Desert National Monument and the interagency committee responsible for the Sonoran pronghorn’s recovery has identified the Sonoran Desert National Monument as a site for future reintroductions of this important animal.

Currently there are two distinct populations of Sonoran pronghorn free ranging in the world. The Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in the United States and one population in the northern Mexican state of Sonora.  Both of these populations are suffering from the effects of climate change and border issues facing United States and Mexico such as human and drug smuggling.

Several wildlife managers in the United States responsible for Sonoran pronghorn recovery claim they are unduly restricted by Wilderness Act regulations on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge to meet their recovery goals under the Endangered Species Act.

By establishing a Sonoran pronghorn herd in non-wilderness areas on the Sonoran Desert National Monument wildlife managers will have greater flexibility in recovering the Sonoran pronghorn and will allow the BLM to comply with the intent of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act to “conserve, protect and restore nationally significant landscapes for the benefit of current and future generations.”

Wildlife Habitat Areas

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument supports the Bureau of Land Management’s preferred alternative that no Wildlife Habitat Areas be established in the Sonoran Desert National Monument because Monument designation offers greater protection but stress that all management prescriptions must be applied to protect Monument objects and the other natural resources in the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Cultural and Heritage Tourism

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert supports the Bureau of Land Management’s preferred alternative to allow Cultural and Heritage tourism as well as scientific research when these activities are compatible with Monument objects and resource protection. The Draft RMP does not discuss how the Bureau of Land Management intends to educate the public about the rich cultural and heritage of the area comprising the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

The Lower Gila Historic Trail Special Cultural Resource Management Area

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument supports the Bureau of Land Management’s preferred alternative to protect a number of historic trails under the Lower Gila Historic Trail Special Cultural Resource Management Area designation.

Protections of Wilderness Characteristics

The Bureau of Land Management is required under the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act is required to inventory and manage lands with wilderness characteristics as wildlands in order to prevent these lands from becoming degraded.

The Bureau of Land Management’s preferred alternative (Alternative E) calls for about 109,900-acres in the Sand Tank Mountains south of Interstate 8 to be managed as wildlands.

The Friends of the Sonora Desert National Monument supports wildland designation in the Sonoran Desert National Monument in the following areas. Sand Tank Mountains: Approximate 109,900-acres; Margie Peak addition: Approximately 14,700-acres; Butterfield Memorial: Approximately 9,600- acres. These areas do meet wildlands criteria and are eligible for Wilderness Act designation.

Grazing in the Sonoran Desert National Monument

The Bureau of Land Management’s preferred alternative (Alternative E) calls for the continuation of grazing on the Sonoran Desert National Monument except portions of the Conley allotment would be permanently closed to grazing. Other areas of the Sonoran Desert National Monument would be open to grazing depending upon range conditions and when not incompatible with Monument objects.

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monuments supports Alternative D which would allow for the retirement of all grazing activities on the Sonoran Desert National Monument when each allotment’s term expires.

In fulfillment of the Sonoran Desert National Monument’s proclamation livestock grazing south of Interstate 8 ceased when the grazing leases expired. The proclamation states that grazing can continue north of Interstate 8 if the Bureau of Land Management can demonstrate that continued grazing is not incompatible with monument objects.

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument supports allowing grazing leases to expire on the Sonoran Desert National Monument for the following reasons.

If grazing was deemed unsuitable for the area south of Interstate 8 in the proclamation then grazing is just as unsuitable in the area north of Interstate 8. The Sonoran Desert National Monument is to be managed for Monument objects as specified by the proclamation and the Antiquities Act of 1906. Domestic livestock are not Monument objects.

Sonoran pronghorn, desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, mule deer, saguaro cactus, mesquite and palo verde tress and many others are Monument objects and they either compete for the same resources that domestic livestock use or are negatively affected by livestock activity. The Sonoran Desert National Monument has suffered a multi-year drought. There is considerable evidence suggesting that below average precipitation may continue into the future. It is not a tenable position to force Monument objects to continued competition with livestock under stressful environmental conditions.

The Bureau of Land Management’s preferred alternative would shift the majority of livestock use on the Monument to the winter and spring months. This is precisely the time when recreational use is at its peak. Many people appreciate the winter wildflowers and go to Sonoran Desert National Monument to see the colorful displays. Under the   Bureau of Land Management’s proposed action, these wildflowers would be allocated to livestock consumption, limiting visitor enjoyment and removing food for wildlife.

The Bureau of Land Management conducted a Land Health Evaluation for the Sonoran Desert National Monument. They concluded that 127,550-acres or 50.5% of all Monument lands north of Interstate 8 are not achieving land health standards. Of this figure the Bureau of Land Management determined that 8,498-acres or 3.4% of the land north of Interstate 8 did not meet land health standards because of livestock grazing. According to the Bureau of Land Management the remaining 47.1% of the land failed to meet standards because of drought or other factors.

Since 50.5% of Monument lands north of Interstate 8 are not meeting land health standards and livestock are not Monument objects, continued livestock operations must cease in order for the land to recover and to protect Monument objects.

Special Recreation Management Areas and Recreation Management Zones

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument supports the Bureau of Land Management’s preferred alternative to allocate the Sonoran Desert National Monument Special Recreation Management Area and the Desert Back Country and Anza National Historic Trail Recreation Management Zones.

Route Designations

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert does not wholly support any of the Bureau of Land Management’s alternatives. Alternative D offers the greatest potential protection to the Monument’s objects and other resources and alternative E the Bureau of Land Management’s preferred alternative does not recommend closing enough routes to adequately protect the Monument’s objects and resources. The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument’s recommendations are as follows:

Northern Half of SDNM near North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness Area

Current Signed Roads Recommended to Remain Open

8000: Main BLM road that parallels the El Paso Natural Gasoline Road 8002: Provide Access to Margies Cove East Trailhead
8000U: Provides access to North Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Area 8002A: Provide Access to Margies Cove East Trailhead
8001: Provide Access to Margies Cove West Trailhead 8003: Juan de Anza National Historic Trail-Butterfield Trail
8001C: Provides access to North Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Area 8004:  Provide Access to Margies Cove West Trailhead and 8003
8001E: Provide Access to Margies Cove West Trailhead 8004A: Provide Access to Margies Cove West Trailhead

 

Current Signed Roads Recommended to be Closed

8000A: Illegal dumping and irresponsible target shooting. 8002C: Into proposed wilderness area.
8000C: Illegal dumping and irresponsible target shooting. 8003C: Unnecessary road
8000D: Illegal dumping and irresponsible target shooting. 8004D: Unnecessary road
8000E: Illegal dumping and irresponsible target shooting. 8004G: Unnecessary road
8000F: Illegal dumping and irresponsible target shooting.  8005: Section of Anza Trail badly damaged by OHV use.
8000G: Illegal dumping and irresponsible target shooting. 8005A: Unnecessary access to damaged section of Anza Trail. This section of Anza Trail will be closed to motorized vehicles.
8000L: Illegal dumping and irresponsible target shooting. 8005D: Unnecessary access to damaged section of Anza Trail. This section of Anza Trail will be closed to motorized vehicles.
8001A: Into proposed wilderness area. 8006H: Into proposed wilderness area.
8001B: Into proposed wilderness area. 8006I: Into proposed wilderness area.
8001D: Into proposed wilderness area. 8039C: Into proposed wilderness area.
8002B: Unnecessary road 8039D: Into proposed wilderness area.

 

Area of SDNM between Interstate 8 and State Highway 238 near South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Area

Current Signed Roads Recommended to Remain Open

8029: Provides access to South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness and AZ Game and Fish Wildlife Water. Administrative cherry stemmed road. 8037A: Provides access to northern and eastern portions of the South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Area
8030: Provides access to South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness and AZ Game and Fish Wildlife Water Administrative cherry stemmed road. 8037Q: Provides access to eastern portions of the South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Area
8030A: Provides access to South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness and AZ Game and Fish Wildlife Water Administrative cherry stemmed road. 8038: Provides access from Highway 238 to South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Area
8032: Main road west of South Maricopa Wilderness 8038A: Provides access from Highway 238 to South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Area
8034: Provides access to Gila Bend 8038B: Provides access from Highway 238 to South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Area
8035 8038C: Provides access from Highway 238 to South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Area
8036: Provides access to Gila Bend 8039: Access along the rail road
8037: Provides access to northern and eastern portions of the South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Area

 

Current Signed Roads Recommended to be Closed

8031: Into proposed wilderness area. 8034E: Redundant road
8033: Redundant road 8035A: Redundant road
8033A: Redundant road 8037: At railroad crossing. Dangerous!
8033B: Redundant road 8037B: Redundant road
8034A: Redundant road 8037C: Redundant road

 

Area South of Interstate 8

Current Signed Roads Recommended to Remain Open

8007: Vekol Road 8022C: Provides access to Table Top Wilderness Area
8007C: Provides access to White Hills 8022D: Provides access to southeast corner of the SDNM
8008: Provides access from Vekol Road to Sand tank Mtns. 8023: Provides access to eastern edge of SDNM
8008J: Part of scenic loop 8023C: Provides access to eastern edge of SDNM
8009: Provide access to Javelina and Sand Tanks Mtns. 8023D: Provides access to eastern edge of SDNM
8009B: Freeman Road provides access to 8009: Freeman Road 8023M: Provides access to eastern edge of SDNM
8010: Provides access between Vekol and Freeman Roads 8023N: Provides access to eastern edge of SDNM
8011: Provides access to Sand tank Mtns. 8024: Provides access to Lava Flow South Trailhead and Table Top Trailhead
8012: Getz Well Road provides access to Sand tank Mtns. 8024A: Provides access to Lava Flow South Trailhead and Table Top Trailhead
8013: Seasonal closure 8025: Provides access to southeast corner of the SDNM
8014: Provides access to road 8018 8026: Provides access to Sand Tank Mtns.
8015: Provides access to Javelina Mtns. 8026A: Provides access to Sand Tank Mtns.
8016D: Part of scenic loop 8026B: Provides access to Sand tank Mtns.
8017: Seasonal closure 8026C: Provides access to Sand Tank Mtns.
8018: Seasonal closure 8027: Provides access to Sand Tank Mtns.
8018C: Provides access to roads 8018 and 8013 from Gila Bend (A favorite route for locals.) 8042: Access to Lava Flow North Trailhead
8019: Seasonal closure 8042A: Provides access to Antelope Peak
8020:Provides loop between 8011 and 8012; leads to wildlife water 8042B: Provides access to Antelope Peak
8022: Smith Road 8044: Access to Lava Flow North Trailhead
8022A: Provides access to Table Top Wilderness Area 8045: Access to Lava Flow North Trailhead
8022B: Provides access to Table Top Wilderness Area 8046: Access to Lava Flow West Trailhead

 

Current Signed Roads Recommended to be Closed

8007B: Unnecessary-redundant 8015A: Unnecessary-redundant
8007D: Unnecessary-redundant 8016: Unnecessary-redundant
8007E: Unnecessary-redundant 8018D: Unnecessary-redundant
8007K: Unnecessary-redundant 8023B: Unnecessary-redundant
8007F: Unnecessary-redundant 8023G: Unnecessary-redundant
8008B: Unnecessary-redundant 8023J: Unnecessary-redundant
8008H: Unnecessary-redundant 8023K: Unnecessary-redundant
8009C: Unnecessary-redundant 8025A: Unnecessary-redundant
8009D: Unnecessary-redundant 8027A: Unnecessary-redundant
8009E: Unnecessary-redundant 8042B: Unnecessary-redundant
8009F: Unnecessary-redundant 8042C: Unnecessary-redundant
8011A: Unnecessary-redundant 8043: Unnecessary-redundant
8014: Unnecessary-redundant 8043A: Unnecessary-redundant

Land Use Authorizations

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert supports the Bureau of Land Management’s preferred alternative that would not allow the allocation of multiuse utility corridors and new Land Use Allocations within the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Special Designations

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument the Bureau of Land Management’s preferred alternative to allocate Interstate 8 and State Highway 238 as Scenic Byways.

Priority Wildlife-Travel Corridors

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument supports alternative D because it offers the great amount of area for wildlife to cross major roadways dissecting the Sonoran Desert National Monument

The proposed wildlife movement corridors are:

  • Buckeye Hills to North Maricopa Mountains
  • Sierra Estrella Mountains to North Maricopa Mountains
  • South Maricopa Mountains to the Sand Tank Mountains
  • Sierra Estrella Mountains to Table Top Mountain
  • North Maricopa Mountains to South Maricopa Mountains

The Sonoran Desert National Monument was created through the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906 “for the purpose of protecting monuments objects” such as desert bighorn sheep, desert mule deer and hopefully Sonoran pronghorn in the near future. These five wildlife movement corridors offer the most protection when crossing highways for these and other animals.

Monument wildlife species and habitat must be prioritized

Bureau of Land Management must protect Monument objects as described in the Proclamation. The Proclamation describes many important wildlife species and their habitat as specific objects of interest to be prioritized for protection over other uses of the area. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Sonoran pronghorn
  • Desert bighorn sheep
  • Mule deer
  • White-tailed deer (Not in the proclamation but should have been)
  • Javelina
  • Mountain lion
  • Grey fox
  • Bobcat
  • Lesser long-nosed bat
  • California leaf-nosed bat
  • Cave myotis
  • Over 200 species of birds, including the elf owl and western screech owl
  • Sonoran desert tortoise
  • Red-backed whiptail
  • Sonoran green toad
  • Lowland burrowing tree frog (Not in the proclamation but should have been)
  • Sonoran desert green toad (Not in the proclamation but should have been)
  • Sinaloan narrow mouth toad (Not in the proclamation but should have been)
  • Arizona mudturtle (Not in the proclamation but should have been)

The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument believes the BLM needs to inventory, prioritize and protect wildlife and habitat under the Proclamation and other laws and policies. The Bureau of Land Management should identify all uses that damage monument objects and present management options in the RMP.

In addition the Bureau of Land Management should include management prescriptions for rare species such as, Lowland burrowing tree frogs, Sonoran desert green toads, Sinaloan narrow mouth toads, and Arizona mud turtles found in the Sonoran Desert National Monument but not identified in the Draft Management Resource Plan.

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