Saturday, August 27, 2005

Rescue Ironwood Forest from Bush neglect & harm

The Ironwood Forest National Monument, on BLM public lands in the Sonoran Desert west of Tucson, is a cool place.

Saguaro Cactus in front of Ragged Top Mountain at Ironwood National Monument. Chris Tincher, BLM.
Saguaro Cactus in front of Ragged Top Mountain at Ironwood
National Monument. Chris Tincher, BLM.


Saguaro & ironwood forests flow between the Silverbell, Waterman, Sawtooth and other mountain ranges. Desert tortoise and bighorn sheep live here, and maybe even an endangered cactus pygmy owl or two.

This 129,000 acre monument has been around now for over 5 years, but still there is no plan to protect it. The Ironwood is still threatened by livestock and off-road vehicles especially. BLM has not done a good job managing the monument so far, favoring 'multiple-abuse' management over conservation and restoration of nature.

If you value the Sonoran Desert, help protect Ironwood. Come to the public workshop Aug 31 in Tucson (read below).

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From AWC: Ironwood Forest National Monument--a spectacular national treasure northwest of Tucson that supports one of the highest densities of ironwood trees in the Sonoran Desert. The Bureau of Land Management has initiated a public comment process, inviting the public to submit their preferences for how the monument should be managed for the next 15 years. This is a critical step in the process: the more feedback the Bureau of Land Management collects from the public, the better prepared it is to protect this special Arizona gem for future generations. The agency needs to hear from YOU that these topics and concerns are a top priority. The land and wildlife cannot speak up for itself.

For example, within the borders of Ironwood Forest National Monument, 474 species and subspecies of plants thrive, 8% of which do not occur in the nearest protected desert areas, the Tucson Mountains, or Organ Pipe National Park. The monument is also home to the last bighorn sheep population in the Tucson Basin. Sensitive to habitat disturbances like roads and off-road vehicle use, sheep and a variety of other species need special safeguards like those offered by wilderness protection.

The Arizona Wilderness Coalition is proposing that the Bureau of Land Management protect four areas with Wilderness Characteristics in the Ironwood Forest NM. These units include Ragged Top (6,161 acres), Sawtooth Mountains (11,169 acres), Silver Bell Mountains (7,489 acres), and the West Silver Bell Mountains (8,598 acres), totaling 33,417 acres. This acreage represents only 25% of the entire monument, which is a reasonable compromise for the monument's multiple uses. Protecting the wilderness characteristics of these areas as will assist the Bureau of Land Management in its responsibility to protect the objects of the Ironwood Forest National Monument and help ensure the long-term survival of the last bighorn sheep herd in the Tucson Basin.

WHAT: A public workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, August 31, 2005 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. to discuss the preliminary draft alternatives. Please attend this workshop to share your ideas with BLM.
WHERE:
Pima County Parks and Recreation, 3500 West River Road, Tucson.
TO SUBMIT COMMENTS:
Comments may be submitted at the workshop or by mail by September 14th, to BLM Tucson Field Office, 12661 E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85748-7208, Attention: Linda Marianito.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: A preliminary table of alternatives and meeting announcement can be viewed as an electronic pdf document at http://www.blm.gov/nhp/spotlight/state_info/planning/az/ironwood_bulletin.pdf A detailed alert with more in depth talking points will be sent out after the Public meeting. It is very likely that the comment deadline will be extended by at least a week. A complete set of the preliminary draft alternatives, along with maps, can be reviewed beginning August 24, 2005, at www.blm.gov under the "Planning" link. The preliminary draft alternatives also will be available beginning August 24, 2005, on CD and/or hard copy by request from Linda Marianito at the BLM Tucson Field Office. Linda can be reached at (520) 258-7241.

Talking Points for writing comments:

  • Tell the BLM that you generally support alternative B, which provides the best protection for monument resources.
  • Protecting 45,000 acres of lands with wilderness characteristics in the monument is necessary to protect monument resources, naturalness, solitude, and primitive recreation.
  • Prohibit the discharge of firearms on monument lands, except for hunting.
  • Protection of the monument's spectacular landscape, biological diversity, and rich cultural past is the primary objective, not providing recreation opportunities.
  • Tell BLM you support a limited motorized transportation network of 170 miles
  • Close bighorn sheep lambing areas to public access from January thru April

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