BLM progressing on plan for Arizona Strip, including national monuments

Access to two national monuments in the Arizona Strip north of the Colorado River is a major focus of a joint management plan being worked on by two federal agencies, a Bureau of Land Management official said.

The BLM and National Park Service received more than 2,200 public comments during a three-month period that concluded in July, and many people who commented brought up the access issue, said Roger Taylor, BLM field manager in St.

George, Utah.

Taylor said the BLM staff is developing management alternatives for the Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vemillion Cliffs national monuments and other federal lands in both Mohave and Coconino counties.

Alternatives could deal with access, grazing, mining, hunting and uses for the federal lands.

They plan to conduct public meetings in Kingman, St.

George and Flagstaff this spring, release a draft plan in September and approve the final plan in June 2005.

The agencies initially planned the meetings in March, but rescheduled them for later in the spring, said David Boyd, a public information officer with the BLM in St.

George.

Taylor said.

"We'll have better information, along with maps."

The BLM and Park Service conducted a meeting for the public in Kingman last June that drew more than 30 people, and have met with county officials since then to discuss the management plan.

Members of the Mohave County Public Land Use Committee, an advisory body to the county supervisors, have not been shy about expressing their views on the management plan.

Over the objections of PLUC, the county supervisors, ranchers and the Republican leadership, former President Bill Clinton established the 1 million-acre Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Mohave County in January 2000.

PLUC members discussed access to Grand Canyon-Parashant and other concerns during a meeting Jan.

21, and proposed recommendations for recreational and other usages of the monument and other federal lands.

The county supervisors are scheduled to consider PLUC's recommendations when they meet next Monday.

PLUC addressed what they want to see for the Strip in 20 and 100 years and expressed support for allowing grazing to continue inside and outside the two national monuments as well as hunting and other recreation.

"We gave (the federal agencies) feedback as to what we think should be there so they can do the planning according to those criteria," PLUC member Truman Puchbauer said.

Puchbauer, a retired forester for the National Forest Service who lives in Kingman, said paved roads leading into Grand Canyon-Parashant are "not necessarily" a goal of the committee.

He added PLUC opposed Clinton's monument designation in the first place for Grand Canyon-Parashant because they wanted to maintain primitive access to the monument.

Taylor concurred, saying, "I think there is adequate access.

I think we have well-maintained gravel roads."

County Supervisor Pete Byers, whose district covers the Strip, said he largely aggress with PLUC, but indicated that he favors paving a road to allow access for the elderly, disabled people and children who cannot hike.

Byers said bus tours should be allowed as well.

"It will increase tourism," he said.

Puchbauer disagrees.

"There is no real benefit from the county because the receipts from increased tourism would go to St.

George," he said.

The monument is currently miles from paved roads and lacks campgrounds, services and drinking water.