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Prominent legislative leaders oppose new restrictions on public lands in Arizona

Determined to protect the rights of Arizona residents and strengthen the state’s economy, Senate President Steve Pierce (R-Prescott) and State Senator Gail Griffin (R-Hereford) joined the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, Arizona Cattle Growers Association, and Friends of the Arizona Strip in opposition to a radical proposal to prohibit ranching, mining, and forest thinning on nearly 2 million acres of land in northern Arizona.

Disingenuously titled “The Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument”, the proposal calls on President Obama to declare 1.7 million acres of public land north of the Grand Canyon as a national monument and outlaw any future use of the land by private industry. The plan was submitted to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) earlier this year by some of the most extreme environmental groups in the country, including the Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity.

“This irresponsible proposal is just the latest in a series of moves by extreme environmentalists to ‘protect the environment’ at the expense of the economy and jobs,” President Pierce declared.

“By prohibiting responsible development of the some of our state’s most valuable natural resources, the plan would further hamper Arizona’s economic recovery and hurt rural Arizona communities already devastated by the recession and federal environmental policies.”

Pierce pointed out that the proposed monument would preclude mining at a time when new technology minimizes mining to the point that it is almost unnoticeable. “We’re punishing those industries that are working the hardest to protect the environment.”

In her opposition to the proposed national monument, Griffin, who chairs the Senate Water, Land Use, and Rural Development Committee, pointed out that 87% of land in Arizona is already owned by the government. According to documents submitted to the BLM, the proposed National Monument would encompass a large portion of the Kaibab National Forest both north and south of the Grand Canyon and would include much of the Arizona strip between the existing Grand Canyon Parashant and Vermillion Cliffs national monuments.

“With only 13% of Arizona land in private hands, Arizona’s economy is at a significant disadvantage compared to other states. We need less federal regulation of our land, not more,” Griffin declared.

Pierce and Griffin are not the only Arizona leaders to express opposition to the proposed plan. On May 11, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission adopted a resolution opposing the proposed national monument, citing a number of concerns and concluding that “the new monument is being proposed to ‘preserve’ and in some cases lock away these lands rather than conserve them, which could impact public access, recreation, grazing, and the ability of the commission to manage wildlife.”

Game and Fish Commissioner Kurt R. Davis pointed out that, “It’s not as if these lands aren’t already being managed and conserved. This is really about changing the status of these lands and adding another layer of federal bureaucracy, which has far-ranging implications.”

In a statement on the group’s website, the Friends of the Arizona Strip also deplored the proposed monument, saying that the group “vigorously oppose[s] the creation of the Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument because it is not necessary and because it violates the express declaration by the United States statute that the land, owned by the people, must serve their interests best. That means all people, not just a select few that think that they know the best way to preserve the public’s assets.”

Concern with the plan is not limited to local and state leaders. Federal elected officials, including Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), have publicly expressed their opposition as well.

Senator Griffin urged all Arizona residents to contact their federal representatives and ask them to oppose the proposed monument.

“We’ve seen where the radical environmentalists’ agenda takes us,”Griffinsaid. “In their efforts to protect the forest, they burn it down. In their efforts to preserve the Spotted Owl, they destroy its habitat. In their efforts to clean the air, they threaten our economy.

“Arizona can’t afford their ‘protection’ any longer.”

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