House stands opposed to Grand Canyon watershed designation

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed an amendment that would prohibit public land management agencies from carrying out declarations under the Antiquities Act in counties where there is significant local opposition.

U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and Crescent Hardy, R-Nev., were key players in getting the measure passed. The vote was 222-206.

"The Antiquities Act has been significantly abused by this rogue president," Gosar said in a prepared statement. "Today the House took bold action to prevent future executive land grabs throughout the country."

Gosar said Arizona has experienced significant harm from special land use designations similar to the proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument. Unfortunately, certain special interest groups and a few misguided members of Arizona's delegation have been pushing for the president to circumvent Congress and make the massive 1.7 million acre designation using the Antiquities Act for the Grand Canyon Watershed.

Their intentions are clear, Gosar said. "They want to use this designation in order to prevent hunting, mining, timber harvesting and grazing on this massive swatch of land."

The federal government's ability to set aside land for monuments and national parks comes from the Antiquities Act of 1906, which was originally intended to protect prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts on federal lands in the West.

"Now 100 years later," Gosar said, "the original purpose of this bill has been significantly abused; more than 130 million acres and more than 100 national monuments exist. President Obama has used the Antiquities Act 16 times now, limiting public input and bypassing Congress each time."

Arizona currently has 18 national monuments, more than any other state. According to Gosar, "Nearly 50 percent of all lands in Arizona are already under federal management and more than 77 percent of Arizona's lands are restricted from public access and recreation."

This is the latest action as a result of Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., and two fellow Democratic congressmen from Arizona who sent a letter to President Obama, asking him to designate the 1.7 million acres of land on the north and south side of the Grand Canyon.

Groups of concerned stakeholders, including sportsmen, city governments, county governments and livestock producers banded together earlier in the year to try and stop the designation. Gosar reported that 24 different members of the House of Representatives, along with U.S. Sen. John McCain and Jeff Flake, joined in opposing the potential designation.

Locally, the Mohave Sportsman Club and Mohave Livestock Association were part of the many organizations that oppose the monument designation.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors also opposes the designation, with Supervisor Gary Watson spearheading the county's opposition to this proposal.

I've had the honor of attending meetings with Supervisor Watson as he and I met with various public officials, including McCain and Kirkpatrick on this issue.

I can tell you that the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, under the leadership of Jim Unmacht, really did a complete and thorough analysis of the proposal and noted that the designation is exactly what Gosar says it is - not good for Arizonans and not good for America.

Unmacht noted, "President Obama recently created three more national monuments, so he now has locked up 19 such places under the Antiquities Act."

A statement from the Obama administration reports that the president "has protected 260 million acres of public lands and waters - more than any other president."

"Many Arizonans don't believe that President Teddy Roosevelt envisioned the Antiquities Act being used in the manner President Obama is changing America's public lands," Unmacht said.

"We can only hope his pen has now run out of ink, and the proposed monument for the Grand Canyon Watershed fails to make his list," Unmacht said.

I'm hopeful but not sure that this isn't going to happen.

This president has a history of doing things that most of the country doesn't support.