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Breath of Fresh Air for Arizona’s Parks and Monuments?

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March 13, 2009

Phoenix, AZ - The Obama administration is demonstrating a new attitude toward Arizona’s national parks and monuments. One of the state’s congressmen says it’s a night-and-day difference. During his campaign, President Obama pledged to reverse what he called attempts to chip away at the integrity of our national parks and to address their funding shortfalls.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) says the new administration is showing a major change in attitude toward the state's parks and monuments.

"We will have our differences, but those differences can be compromised and reconciled. It’s far different from having to be fighting an administration every step of the way."

Last year, as chair of the subcommittee on national parks, Grijalva accused the Bush administration of reducing park protections for the benefit of mining and other commercial interests. Grijalva says energy extraction from public lands must be balanced with resource protection. He predicts federal economic stimulus money will produce a number of positive changes for Arizona's national parks.

"The unfinished maintenance, the backlog of maintenance, more people to be hired, beginning to fix our trails and do those things that have been ignored for about ten years. All those are good signs."

Grijalva is pushing a bill authorizing the park service to buy land around southern Arizona’s Saguaro National Park to buffer it from nearby development. And, he has similar plans elsewhere in Arizona.

"Walnut Canyon, Fossil Creek, Tumacacori Wilderness. We have a huge bill that has a lot of valuable things: Arizona Trail, San Pedro protection, and the Santa Cruz Heritage Area. The president wants to sign it and it would be a significant piece of legislation for Arizona."

The House narrowly failed to pass that bill Wednesday, but another vote is expected. Grijalva’s subcommittee is also conducting hearings on how climate change affects the national parks.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ