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Advocates for Arizona's National Monuments Take Fight to D.C.

Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona, a national dark-sky park, is one of those under federal review. (BLM)
Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona, a national dark-sky park, is one of those under federal review. (BLM)
June 8, 2017

PHOENIX -- Several dozen advocates for the country's national monuments are traveling to Washington D.C. today to try to convince policymakers not to chip away at the boundaries.

In April, President Trump called for a review of dozens of large national monuments created since 1996, saying they amounted to a massive federal land grab. The Ironwood Forest, Grand Canyon-Parashant, Vermillion Cliffs and Sonoran Desert national monuments fall under this review.

Jack Ehrhardt is a builder from Kingman and a member of the group "Monuments for All." He said we can't just surrender the country's precious open space.

"There's going to be 9.4 billion people, approximately, by 2050,” Ehrhardt said; "and if we don't preserve these sites, if we don't take them and put them in special protected areas, development will continue to spread everywhere."

A new study from Headwaters Economics analyzed the impact of national monument designations at 17 sites in the West and found that they improved the financial situation in all of the surrounding communities. For example, President Clinton designated Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in 2000, and the report found that by 2005, the population grew by 18 percent, jobs by 25 percent and real personal income by 45 percent in Coconino County. Pima County, near the Ironwood Forest, saw upward trends as well.

Ehrhardt also said access to the country's wild areas are every American's birthright - and thinks past presidents were right to protect them using their powers under the Antiquities Act.

"The Antiquities Act is probably one of the most important domestic policies that this country has ever adopted,” he said. “And to go ahead and change it because there are commercial and industrial interests pressuring Congress and the president to review these monuments - I mean, national monuments to me are basically a civil rights issue."

The delegation chose June 8 for the trip to Washington partly as a celebration of the 111th anniversary of the signing of the Antiquities Act by President Theodore Roosevelt, who used it to create 18 national monuments.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ