Grand Canyon Watershed

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The Presidential designation of a new National Monument in the Grand Canyon Watershed has not come without controversy. Hear from Game and Fish Commission Chairman Kurt Davis, who opposes the designation, and Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, who supports the new national monument.

TED SIMONS: The proposed designation of a new national monument in the Grand Canyon watershed finds the state game and fish commission and the Sierra Club on opposing sides. Tonight, we hear from those two sides. Kurt Davis is chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and is against the monument designation. Sandy Bahr is director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club which supports the new national monument. Good to have you both here, thanks for joining us.

TED SIMONS: Let's quickly terms here. What is the Grand Canyon watershed? Why are you opposed to it being a monument?

KURT DAVIS: Well, for several reasons. You're talking about a nonpublic process and a request to the President to use an authority and actually exceed that authority in putting $1.7 million acres aside which has ramifications for wildlife, for megafires and for people's ability to access those lands. It's being done quite frankly, without a full disclosed public process.

This is 1.7 acres nort of the Grand Canyon area?

SANDY BAHR: 1.7 million acres and it's all public land, not adding private land or state trust land. It's all public land, national forest, North and South of Grand Canyon National Park.

TED SIMONS: You're saying private land is involved?

KURT DAVIS: No, there's 66,000 acres of state trust lands, and there's negative consequences to our kids' schools when you take that land out of the ability to be used for anything other than a monument.

SANDY BAHR: Those are not part of the monument. Only federal public lands can be designated by the President as a national monument.

KURT DAVIS: You would land-lock 66,000 acres of state public trust lands.

SANDY BAHR: Those lands are inside federal public lands right now. So that's really kind of a specious argument.

TED SIMONS: What about the argument he made originally, that this is not proper process for this, it's being done without the proper input.

SANDY BAHR: First of all, there is a process. You know, we and others have asked the President to look at designating the Grand Canyon watershed national monument. There's been a long process of identifying the benefits, which are protecting the area from uranium mining, protecting old growth, protecting wildlife habitat and corridors. And so what happens with the national monument, the President does have the ability to designate a national monument. The management of the national monument has a significant public process. And we've seen it happen in Arizona and we've seen it work before. The Sonoran Desert National monument, the Agua Fria National Monument. There's a process where people can comment, there are public meetings, there are maps, it's very detailed and informed. The other thing I would add is that with this proposed national monument there has been a legislation previously and there is likely to be legislation in the future which again, provides an opportunity for people to comment.

KURT DAVIS: Let's be clear. The request is of the President to use the Antiquities Act. Which means it does not go through a fully public process. Sierra Club's always been advocates for NEPA and ESA, it doesn't go through that. The President declares these lands under the authority of the Antiquities Act. I just want to read you a quote from it. "Limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected." That's what the Antiquities Act says the President's authority is. There's been no list provided saying what are we protecting, and what the Antiquities Act is referring to is antiquities. Meaning, for example, important cultural and Native American sites. There is no list that says these are the things we're protecting.

SANDY BAHR: There are over 3,000 known cultural sites in the monument area.

KURT DAVIS: But no --

SANDY BAHR: There is a variety of species of wildlife and there will be --

KURT DAVIS: And this is why you do NEPA, to actually look for those specific articles to protect.

SANDY BAHR: The Antiquities Act was established by Congress, specifically to allow the President to designate areas for protection.

KURT DAVIS: The smallest area.

SANDY BAHR: The Grand Canyon area has been protected by previous Presidents who recognized how important this area is, and how important it is to protect it. And I mean, Congress did not step up initially to protect Grand Canyon National Park, Petrified Forest, Saguaro, a variety of places. Congress did not step up to protect the Ironwood Forest National Monument. These are all places that are supported by the people of Arizona. People love our public lands and they want to see them protected.

KURT DAVIS: Already, already public lands, already designated by President Teddy Roosevelt as a game preserve. Those protections are already afforded.

SANDY BAHR: They are not, that is incorrect.

TED SIMONS: Hold it, I want to ask a question here for a second.

SANDY BAHR: Okay.

TED SIMONS: The idea that you mentioned permanent uranium mining in that area. The idea of the monument would help protect the area that is unprotected right now, we don't know what uranium needs might be in the next 5, 10, 20, 30 years.

KURT DAVIS: The fact is, those protections have been in place through 2032 already. So that issue has already been handled. What it doesn't talk about, what people don't talk about is catastrophic fire. Monuments, if you think you're going to manage the forest from overgrowth and then catastrophic fire, I would love to see the Sierra Club say they are willing to put a $3 billion bond on that forest, that it won't burn down after it becomes a monument and we're no longer actively managing those trees.

TED SIMONS: The idea that management would be difficult, access difficult, thus habitat would be threatened and fire would run rampant. How do you respond?

SANDY BAHR: Well, he has nothing to support those allegations. First of all, there's no reason you can't manage the forest. It will protect old growth, and old growth is the fire-resistant part of the forest. And you will have fires. Acting like you're not going to have fires in the forest is ridiculous. We know ecologically that there will be fires and that we need fire to maintain the health of the forest. It's those very old growth and larger trees that will be protected by a national monument that will provide a more fire-resistant, fire-resilient landscape and a healthier forest.

TED SIMONS: How would that happen, though? In terms of management, if access is limited, if businesses even in the area wind up going out of business, which we'll talk about in a second here, but if that were to happen?

SANDY BAHR: There's nothing to support businesses.

TED SIMONS: If access is limited though how do you manage an area like that?

SANDY BAHR: Monuments are good economically. There's numerous studies on that so this argument that you're going to have businesses going out and that it'll be bad economically, again, that's just incorrect. The other thing is, is the monument, it's not going to shut down the area. It helps protect it, it helps to limit activities that are causing harm, so you're not going to be able to go in there and chop down old growth trees, you're not going to be able to drop a bunch of uranium mine claims --

KURT DAVIS: Neither of those are occurring now.

SANDY BAHR: There is old growth logging on the North Kaibab --

KURT DAVIS: When was the last sizable cutting contract we've seen in Arizona, and we've seen catastrophic fire. You do see reduced access. As of right now the Sierra Club is engaged in lawsuits to stop grazing on a national monument, they're engaged in trying to stop recreational shooting on a monument or further limit recreational shooting on a monument. What happens is, everyone says everything's going to be the same, don't worry about it. But then, after it happens we see a reduction in the ability to manage wildlife, an increase in catastrophic fire, changes in people's ability to make a living. And recreational access is impeded. I mean, that's just the reality of what happens in monuments.

TED SIMONS: Respond, please.

SANDY BAHR: SANDY BAHR: Well, I can respond again, it's just incorrect. First of all, yes, there there are some limits on grazing in some monuments, in a hot desert monument that can't sustain livestock raising anyway. You have to look at the specifics of a particular monument. The other thing I will add, each of these monument proposals has had language in it that retains the authority of the entity he's supposed to represent, Game and Fish, to manage wildlife. Every one of the monuments that the President has established has that language in it. There's no evidence to support this argument on catastrophic fire.

KURT DAVIS: Because they --

SANDY BAHR: We're talking about protecting an area, there's wildlife connectivity, there are corridors to be protected.

TED SIMONS: Please, I need to get him to respond, please.

KURT DAVIS: It's already public lands that are protected. Wildlife is held in trust for the people of Arizona. The federal government can't say you can't manage wildlife. They have to allow the management of wildlife. But we talk about managing wildlife, one of our other monuments, when you tied it up, the ability for the department to get in and work on water catchments, and bighorn wild sheep.

SANDY BAHR: I would like for you to show that to me because there's no evidence.

KURT DAVIS: Yes, there is, actual numeric reductions in count.

TED SIMONS: Unfortunately, we have to stop. This is a very interesting discussion.

TED SIMONS: TED SIMONS: Because I mean, you guys both really see things very differently. Good to have you both here.

SANDY BAHR: We want to see habitat protected and he doesn't.

TED SIMONS: That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons, thank you for joining us, you have a great evening.

Kurt Davis:Game and Fish Commission Chairman,
Sandy Bahr:Director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club

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