The BLM has released a draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA). This plan will govern how the SPRNCA will be managed for the next few decades. The Friends has completed a first review of the document and will provide comments to the BLM during meetings and in writing. We would like to share with you our reaction and concerns.
But first, how to find the draft documents…
The draft RMP is available for the public to review and provide comments on the BLM ePlanning website at https://go.usa.gov/xnTuM. Get involved! Your opinion counts. Your voice is needed to counter those with influence who are working behind the scenes to undo the work of the last 30 years.
Public meetings on the draft plan are scheduled for:
- July 30, 5:30-7 p.m., Sierra Vista Police Department, 911 N. Coronado Drive, Sierra Vista, Arizona (Meeting attendees should use the lobby entrance to access the room)
- Aug. 8, 5:30-7 p.m., Benson Fire Department Station 71, 375 E. 7th Street, Benson, Arizona
- Aug. 22, 5:30-7 p.m., Sierra Vista Police Department, 911 N. Coronado Drive, Sierra Vista, Arizona (Meeting attendees should use the lobby entrance to access the room)
- Aug. 23, 5:30-7 p.m., Pima Community College, 401 N. Bonita Ave., Tucson, Arizona
Public input will shape the final plan, and we encourage you to attend one of the public meetings to learn more about the draft RMP and voice your opinions and suggestions.
Overall assessment. The BLM has been working on this document for several years. We commend them for the completion of this draft and look forward to working towards issuance of a final plan that continues current protection of this precious national resource. However, we do have significant concerns as discussed below.
The first concern is grazing. The draft RMP opens all but a narrow corridor of land along the river to grazing. We believe that this is contrary to the Arizona-Idaho Conservation Act of 1988 (Enabling Act) that created the SPRNCA in 1988, that set aside the area for conservation of its natural resources. In no way is extensive grazing compatible with this fundamental goal. The first management plan, written immediately after creation of the SPRNCA, realized this and restricted almost all use for livestock in what was then a terribly degraded area. Grazing will degrade natural resources and inevitably harm the riparian corridor and the all-important tributary washes in which grazing will be allowed. From a practical standpoint, any potential financial gain to local ranchers will be more than offset by losses from current earnings by those associated with the burgeoning Cochise County eco-tourism industry.
A second area of concern is that the plan opens the entire SPRNCA to hunting. Hunting is now permitted in only part of the area. This plan only restricts the activity from a one-quarter mile radius around a small number of recreational sites. It would allow hunting along the river in the heavily used area at the San Pedro House, the Fairbank Loop Trail, the trail to Terrenate and other areas frequented by bird watchers, hikers, horse-back riders, fishermen…everyone using the public lands for recreation. We have significant concerns about the safety of this approach, though we are not opposed to the safe extension of hunting into other areas.
Other issues of concern to us are: the use of heavy equipment and chemicals to clear upland areas for grazing; opening roads to vehicular traffic; and, allowing trapping.
We believe the current approach that realized the Enabling Act should be continued. In the last 30 years, curtailment of grazing has fostered a recovering landscape. Visitors come from around the world to see the wildlife that inhabits this unique, rich riparian area. All of this is what the creators of the SPRNCA had in mind. No plan for the future management of the area should do anything to turn the clock back to pre-1988, when the area was denuded of vegetation and not able to support wildlife. Similarly, as eco-tourism has grown, becoming an important source of recreational enjoyment and revenue, hunting should not be introduced into areas with heavy visitation.
This represents the position of FSPR. Each one of you has the same right (and duty?) to speak up about how you want this precious area of public lands to be managed. You can review and comment on the draft RMP at the BLM website, https://go.usa.gov/xUYjE and click on the “Comment on Document” link. You can also attend public meetings on the document that will be held in late July and August.
Again we encourage you to get involved! Your opinion will be considered by officials. Your voice is needed to counter those with influence who are working behind the scenes to undo the work of the last 30 years.