The National Park System in Arizona each year draws 12 million visitors, who spend almost $1 billion and support more than 15,000 jobs, according to new fact sheets by Democratic Party members of the Joint Economic Committee in Congress.
Public lands advocates hope that will be enough to keep four Arizona national monuments safe as they undergo a review ordered by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The President has directed that the monuments’ boundaries conform to the smallest possible acreage necessary to protect the cultural and natural resources.
Bryan Martyn, a former Arizona State Parks director and former Pinal County supervisor, says Arizona’s national monuments are crucial to rural economies.
“There are places where public lands make sense,” he stresses. “And not just for the sake of preservation, which has its own benefit, but the economic drivers that a lot of these places are. Now, we need to remember that when we start these discussions.”
Three Republican congressmen from Arizona – Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and Trent Franks – signed a letter to the interior secretary recommending that national monument status be revoked entirely at Vermilion Cliffs, Grand Canyon Parashant, Ironwood Forest and Sonoran Desert National monuments.
They contend the monuments interfere with ranching and energy interests, and are much larger than necessary.
Martyn concedes there may be some room for compromise on the size of some of the monuments, but rejects the idea of eliminating them altogether.
“We’ve demonstrated throughout the country that public lands are economic drivers, for public use – literally, billions of dollars,” he stresses. “So, to just make a blanket ‘get rid of them’ – I think we’re better than that.”
The public comment period for the monument review ended last week, and millions wrote in to support keeping the monuments intact and free of development.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has a deadline of Aug. 24 to submit his final report. In an interim report, Zinke already recommended cutting the size of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.
By Suzanne Potter
Public News Service – AZ