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8:51 AM Sat, Dec. 15th

Federal agencies plan meetings to hear public say on managing 2 national monuments

Two federal agencies plan meetings for Kingman June 6 and other locations in May and June to give the public more say on managing two new national monuments and other federal lands in the Arizona Strip.

The Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service are scheduling scoping meetings for the Grand-Canyon Parashant National Monument, the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument and other areas.

The BLM manages 80 percent of the 1 million-acre Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument and the Park Service the remainder.

The land is entirely in Mohave County.

The meetings are part of a process that Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced Wednesday, said Roger Taylor, field manager of the Arizona Strip office of the BLM in St.

George, Utah.

He said the meetings are designed to increase public participation to deal with "what are the issues and concerns that the public has about management of the monuments and other BLM lands here."

Norton announced the formal start of the Interior Department's work on drafting land management plans for Grand Canyon-Parashant, Vermillion Cliffs in Coconino County and 13 other national monuments that former President Bill Clinton established, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

She was quoted as saying that she wants the BLM and Park Service "to make the planning process a model of how to involve the people who live and work closest to these monuments."

Clinton created Grand Canyon-Parashant and the 300,000-acre Vermillion Cliffs National Monument by proclamation in 2000.

The Mohave County supervisors, other elected officials and ranchers objected to the creation of the Grand Canyon-Parashant monument because they believed they had little say in the process and feared the designation would hurt grazing, mining and other economic development.

Last May, Mohave County Supervisor Chairman Pete Byers sent a letter to Norton urging her to reduce the monument by half.

In response to letters from Byers, county supervisors elsewhere, governors and others, Norton created the new process, Taylor said.

While he has not seen the details, a member of the Mohave County Public Land Use Committee remains critical of the federal government's management of Grand Canyon-Parashant.

The committee advises the county supervisors on dealing with state and federal agencies that manage public lands.

"They are going to ask the public what do they perceive as the issues," retired forester and Kingman resident Truman Puchbauer said.

"That is kind of backwards.

They should have asked that before they established the monument."

National Park Service planner Darla Sidles responded, "The decision has been made" to establish the monument.

"Let's makes the best of it."

Sidles, who is based in St.

George and is assistant manager for Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, said county, state and tribal governments will participate in the management plans for the national monuments.

"This is a unique situation in that (Grand Canyon-Parashant) is managed jointly by the two agencies, and it is going to provide a good opportunity for us to take the best of both agencies," she said.

Both agencies have hired additional staff to manage the monument, Taylor said.

He added that the agencies will decide whether to close or keep dirt roads open to vehicles.

Taylor said the monument has not been "inundated" with visitors, probably because of its remoteness.

The closest paved road is about 20 miles from the northern boundary: Interstate 15 near Mesquite, Nev.