The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, the Sierra Club and the Bureau of Land Management celebrated Earth Day 2013 by closing and initiating restoration of 2-miles of illegal roads in the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The Sonoran Desert National Monument southwest of Phoenix has undergone several years of illegal smuggling activity. Smugglers walk, ride horses and drive off highway vehicles, cars and trucks from Mexico across the Tohono O’odham Nation, Bureau of Land Management and Department of Defense land to deliver their contraband, i.e. marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine. In doing so they use existing roads and trails and when necessary they create their own roads.
Roads legitimate and illegitimate are a form of habitat destruction that negatively affects wildlife, plants, encourages water and wind erosion. Properly engineered and constructed roads minimize these effects. As you can imagine smugglers care little about environmental impact and I guess I can say the same about the Americans who spend billions of dollars each year on illegal drugs. Unintended consequences!
The Bureau of Land Management is working hard trying to protect the Sonoran Desert National Monument but they cannot do it alone. This is why the Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument and the Sierra Club spent Earth Day 2013 standing up for our public land and showing the Bureau of Land Management and others that we mean what we say when we cry out our love for our public land.
The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument has been working with the Bureau of Land Management and the Arizona Department of Transportation to reduce the buffelgrass threat to the ecology of the Sonoran Desert.
Roads and highways are primary routes for invasive plants species to disperse and the Sonoran Desert National Monument is dissected or bordered by several highways as well has many unimproved roads. State Highways 85 and 238 and Interstate 8 have buffelgrass infestations in their right of ways. In addition Interstate 8 has buffelgrass thriving in median dividing the highway.
The Bureau of Land Management is finishing up an environmental analysis on herbicide use on the Sonoran Desert National Monument which when completed will make buffelgrass treatment more effective when combining mechanical removal and herbicide application techniques. The analysis will be completed before the onset of the summer monsoon season when buffelgrass growth is greatest.
Sonoran Desert National Monument Bureau of Land Management staff has been instrumental in the fight to free the monument from the buffelgrass threat by scheduling crews to mechanically remove buffelgrass growing in the monument. They have made significant progress.
It is possible with our constant vigilance and partnerships with agencies we will see the Sonoran Desert National Monument buffelgrass free by 2014.
Former Secretary of the Interior and Governor of Arizona Bruce Babbitt recently made news, and I would say history, when he proposed a land conservation idea that is worthy of thoughtful consideration and I believe implementation. His idea is to permanently protect one acre of public land for every acre leased for oil and gas development. During the past four years, under President Obama’s administration, the Bureau of Land Management has leased a record amount of public land to oil and gas developers resulting in fewer acres of public land available for conservation, recreation and other non-consumptive uses. In fact the ratio between developed land and protected land is quite lopsided; the oil and gas industry has leased more than 6 million acres of public lands over the past four years, compared with only 2.6 million acres permanently protected
The 112th Congress, which thankfully adjourned for good in 2012, was the first Congress since the 1940s not to protect a single new acre of public land as a park, wilderness area or national monument. What this means to the American people, who value their public lands, is that, an area of open space the size of Rhode Island was lost to energy development every year. Can we risk depending upon the current 113th Congress, which is not a lot different than the 112th, to protect our public land? I do not think so. Secretary Babbitt’s eloquent, simple and powerful proposition calls on President Obama to conserve as much land as he has leased by the end of his presidency. That is for every one acre of our public land leased to the oil and gas industry during President Obama’s tenure, one acre should be permanently protected as a national parks, monuments or National Conservation Areas for the good of our economy and future generations.
Critics of Babbitt’s proposal will falsely claim that conservation of public land will devastate the economy and cause the loss of thousands of jobs. Fortunately the facts contradict this claim because hunting, fishing, tourism and the $646 billion outdoor recreation economy contributes to our economy without devastating the land.
How can President Obama do this? He can begin by to making up the deficit of the past four years by permanently protecting 4 million acres of public land, and in the next four years he should permanently protect one acre for each acre leased to the oil and gas industry. He can accomplish this through the deliberate use of his executive power, granted to him by the Antiquities Act, to permanently protect important natural, historical and cultural sites and preserve opportunities like hunting, fishing and hiking for future generations.
The President should set clear annual goals for permanent land conservation that put him on track to protect as much land as he has leased by the end of his presidency.
The President should call on Congress to pass the bills brought to them and supported by local community and business leaders from across the country. This includes several potential new wilderness areas which only Congress and designate.
By rising to this challenge President Obama and Congress canright the balance between conservationand oil and gas drilling on our public lands, strengthen our economic vitality and build a legacy upon which our children and grandchildren can be proud.
Please contact your elected officials in Washington, DC to share your opinion on this matter.
The “fiscal cliff” has been avoided, but the threats to our public lands will continue and unreasonable suggestions like that of Utah Congressman Rob Bishop and New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce that we sell our federal public land to pay for America’s debts will not go away. They, and their anti-public land colleagues, will continue advocate selling our public land for non-renewable development.
Americans are proud of their public land. Public land provides many services such as clean water, fresh air and places for recreation and solitude. It also provides for sustainable economic development in the areas where public and more precisely protected public land is abundant.
In the recent Headwaters Economics study, “West is best: Protected lands promote jobs and higher incomes,” it is reported that Western, non-metropolitan counties with more than 30 percent of the county’s land base in federal protected status such as national parks, monuments, wilderness and other similar designations increased jobs by 345 percent over the past 40 years, whereas similar counties with no protected federal public lands increased employment by only 83 percent.
Let’s keep the pressure on Congress that selling off our public land is not the answer to our nation’s budget woes.
The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument is rapidly approaching the November 14, 2012 Conservation Lands Foundation deadline to raise $10,000. We have just a little over $1,000 to go before Wednesday November 14, 2012. If we reach $10,000 the Conservation Lands Foundation will match it with another $10,000.
In 2013 the Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument will have many challenges now that the Resource Management Plan is complete and ready for implementation under the National Conservation Lands 15-year Strategy that mandates conservation on Bureau of Land Management monuments, like the Sonoran Desert National Monument, a priority over other multiple-uses.
Help the Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument meet its fundraising goal and in making the National Conservation Lands strategy a success by making a contribution before Wednesday November 14.
To make a donation please visit our Razoo Online Donation page. If you prefer to send a check mail it to Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, P.O. Box 13252, Tempe, AZ 85284. If you choose to mail your check, email me at email@example.com and tell me it is on the way, so I can pick it up before the deadline.
Thomas Hulen, Executive Director
The Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument is celebrating National Public Lands Day on September 29 by removing the invasive plant buffelgrass from portions of the Sonoran Desert National Monument.
Volunteers from the Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, the BLM, REI and the Desert Botanical Garden will team up to remove a buffelgrass infestation near the South Maricopa Mountains.
Using hand tools, volunteers will remove this plant from a desert wash. The infestation is relatively small at this time, but recent monsoon rains have given this grass a boost.
The National Public Lands Day event will begin at 8:00 am and last until noon. Lunch will be provided. Registration required. To register, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buffelgrass, an African bunch grass that evolved with wildfire and heavy grazing pressure, was brought to the United States and Mexico as forage for domestic livestock. It grows so well in this area that it can easy out-compete native grasses and other plants for space, water and nutrients.
Non-native species often times out-compete native species because they may have advantages such as resistance to native diseases and insects that native species do not. Because buffelgrass grows fast and is perennial it can easily overwhelm an area. In addition it is adapted to periodic wildfire whereas most Sonoran desert plants are not. After a fire and with suitable rainfall buffelgrass can sprout from its roots forming a buffelgrass monoculture. Vast areas in Sonora, Mexico are now buffelgrass monocultures that occasionally fuel catastrophic wildfires.
Because Sonoran desert plants, such as palo verde trees and all cactuses, photosynthesize on the surface of their trunks and stems they are extremely susceptible to fire. For more information about buffelgrass as a threat to the Sonoran desert go to the Buffelgrass Coordination Center’s website: www.buffelgrass.org.
Americans are fortunate in having millions of acres of public land. This land is used for recreation, ecological services such as maintaining air quality, watersheds for drinking water and flood control and appropriate economic development. No other people in the world have this benefit at this scale. Some say our nation’s national park system is America’s best idea. I prefer to think that all of our system of national public lands, i.e. Bureau of Land Management, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, Forest Service lands are great ideas. We are the envy of the world! This is why thousands of foreign visitors as well as Americans flock to national parks such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks every year. No one travels thousands of miles to view a uranium mine or a clear-cut or over grazed forest. They want to see the Grand Canyon in Arizona or the wolves in Yellowstone National Park. The economies in these areas demonstrate this fact. Go to see for yourself.
Headwaters Economics produced case studies and a series of reports that assess the economic performance of local communities adjacent to national monuments.
The Economic Benefits of Land Conservation includes original research and analysis from eight leading experts on the economic benefits of parks and conservation. Topics include the economic benefits of preserving watersheds, urban forests, and farmland; the impact of parks on property taxes; and how parks and conservation help communities attract businesses and residents.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) works in partnership with state and local efforts to help preserve the integrity of irreplaceable lands throughout the nation. As the premier federal funding source for land conservation, the LWCF acquires and protects inholdings and expansions in our national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, national trails, and BLM areas. LWCF grants to states support the acquisition of state and local parks and recreational facilities.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar outlined the economic importance of U.S. energy production and called the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “one of the nation’s greatest assets – both economically and environmentally.”
Designated wilderness areas on national forests and other federal public lands permanently protect spectacular scenic vistas, high-quality drinking water supplies, cold-water fisheries, the capacity of the land for carbon storage, vital habitat for wildlife, a wide variety of back country recreation opportunities, and many other values that are of benefit to society and the environment.
Another great American idea is environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Antiquities Act, the Wilderness Act and many others. These laws were enacted to protect all Americans and the natural and cultural resources we value passionately. Without these laws our public health and national character would be threatened. If anyone tells you that the air we breathe is dirtier now than it was in 1972 they would be lying to you.
Our system of protecting our natural and cultural resources is not perfect. More needs to be done. Climate change is just one example where we need to do more.
Unfortunately there are people in Arizona who do not appreciate our national public lands and the laws enacted to protect us and our natural and cultural resources. Many of these people say it is too difficult to develop and exploit these resources and that environmental regulations and public lands discourage job growth. The economic data simply does not support this contention.
Arizona’s legislature has enough of these people to refer to the voters in November, over the governor’s veto, Proposition 120.
Proposition 120 would amend the Arizona Constitution to declare Arizona’s sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the Arizona’s boundaries.
The objective of Proposition 120 is to attain exclusive control of federal public land, i.e. national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges in Arizona and undermine protections provided by federal laws, such as the Antiquities Act, Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act.
What makes this proposition so preposterous is that Arizona is not adequately funding and caring for its own state lands. Many state parks have closed and there are plans to privatize others. The land department is miserably under-funded, so how can our state possibly manage federal public lands?
Our national parks, forests, and monuments, including the Sonoran Desert National Monument, belong to all Americans. The Legislature’s attempt to grab these public lands violates both the Arizona Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Proposition 120 also violates the Arizona-New Mexico Enabling Act, the law that granted Arizona Statehood in 1912.
So on Election Day in November, let’s all stand together and show our appreciation for our national public lands in Arizona and vote no on Proposition 120.
Executive Director, Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument
Imagine taking in the desert scenery alongside the Sonoran Desert National Monument on the way to the spectacular North Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Area. As you drive further, you start to see the landscape marred by piles of trash, broken appliances and shattered computer monitors and television sets. Cactus and trees are blown apart by target shooters, and rock art and boulders are covered in graffiti by vandals.
And all of this on land that you and I were meant to enjoy and cherish.
Unfortunately, this scenario is real, and is happening far too often. Our incredible public lands are increasingly being used as dumping grounds and shooting ranges. But there’s hope – and this is where the Friends of Sonoran Desert National Monument are playing a critical role…and you can join us by donating today. The Conservation Lands Foundation has generously offered us a $10,000 Matching Challenge grant. They will match your donation dollar for dollar.
As a local, community partner, advocate, and steward of this special place, the Friends of Sonoran Desert National Monument are working to assure that the Monument and surrounding areas are cared for and safe for everyone to enjoy. In this effort, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing the Monument under the guidelines set for National Conservation Lands, focusing primarily on conservation while still allowing for other compatible uses. The Friends are working with the BLM to make sure this happens. But the challenges are great.
Vandalism, dumping, reckless target shooting irresponsible off highway vehicle use and illegal smuggling activities are damaging this incredible landscape, threatening the ecology, wildlife, and natural and cultural integrity of the Monument. Protecting these resources is just one of many priorities of Friends of Sonoran Desert National Monument. Other priorities include:
These are just some of the ways we’re working to preserve the Sonoran Desert National Monument.
But we can’t do it alone. We need people like you to join us in this amazing quest. By giving your talent, your time, your passion, and financial support, you can be an integral part of leaving a priceless legacy for future generations.
And right now your gift to Friends of Sonoran Desert National Monument will have double the impact. The Conservation Lands Foundation has generously offered us a $10,000 Matching Challenge grant. For every dollar that we raise, they will match that donation.
We need less than $3,000 to reach our match goal of $10,000, and you can help us cross the finish line!
Your gift of $50, $100, or whatever is right for you, will help us continue stewarding and championing the Sonoran Desert National Monument. And it will be doubled!
Thank you for partnering with us this year.
FSDNM Board President
Most people will agree that our public lands are being threatened from all directions. Smuggling activities on our southern border, unsustainable mineral and fossil fuel withdrawals, poor planning, irresponsible recreation actions and climate change are all taking a toll on this land. Unfortunately many of the people we elected to Congress are considering legislation that would add another stress on the land by waiving important environmental laws, most of which were passed with bipartisan support.
This proposed legislation, HR1505, is called the ‘‘National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act.’’ Sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and S 803, cosponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). These bills would give unrestricted power to the Department of Homeland Security on all public lands within 100 miles of our borders we share with Mexico and Canada.
If passed this legislation would permit the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to do what is deemed necessary in the guise of national security without any public comment or even an internal review process. This means the DHS could build roads, fences, living quarters, surveillance towers and airstrips to name a few examples anywhere on public land within 100-miles of our international borders, including Canada. Can you imagine what this could do to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (OPCNM), the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge (CPNWR) and the Sonoran Desert National Monument (SDNM) if this insane idea becomes law and is implemented?
Look at the following map. This is an example of what has happened on the CPNWR with smuggling activities coupled with law enforcement and poor national policy, which exempts DHS from many current environmental protection laws. Bad policy that will be expanded if HR1505 becomes law. There should not be any roads represented by blue lines in the map below. Imagine what 100-miles of this would be like along our international borders. Remember the CPNWR is a wilderness area established by Congress in 1990.
HR1505 is not a done deal. We have time to let our elected representatives know that HR1505 is a bad idea. Let your representatives in Congress know that you do not approve of this ill-conceived and environmentally devastating bill becoming law.