Letter | Sharon Baur: Celebrate nature, celebrate Joshua Trees

A sea of Joshua Trees stretch out beyond my view, broken only by the tips of the Grand Wash Cliffs. I am in Arizona’s Northwestern corner standing in one of the largest and densest Joshua Tree Forest in the world.  The Grapevine Mesa Joshua Trees Forest was designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) for its outstanding biological and geological resources back in 1993.

Landmarks such as The Grapevine Mesa Joshua Trees Forest have been designated by the Secretary of the Interior for their condition, illustrative character, rarity, diversity and value to science and education.

In 1993, areas surrounding similar national natural landmarks were designated as ACECs. ACECs are public lands where special management attention is required to protect and prevent irreparable damage to important historic, cultural, or scenic values, fish and wildlife resources or other natural systems or processes, and to protect life and safety from natural hazards.

 Arizona’s Grapevine Mesa Joshua Tree Forest is only one of the many public lands belonging to all Americans. These lands are part of our heritage. Nowhere else in the world will you find the citizens of a nation owning vast lands held specifically for them in trust by the government. Only in America.  

Today, our public lands are under unprecedented threats that could result in the vast exploitation of these resources. The attack on our national monuments could result in the sellout of vast portions of these lands for mining, drilling and logging. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke’s recommendation would represent the largest elimination of protected areas in U.S. history and would result in the destruction of Native American archaeological sites, widespread loss of wildlife habitat, and economic harm to local businesses. Local businesses, especially in the rural west, depend on a robust outdoor economy to keep our communities healthy and viable, as well as giving citizens places to recreate and renew ourselves in unspoiled nature.

If the White House follows through with the recommendations to sell-out these national monuments to drilling, mining and logging, it will result in the loss of millions of acres of hunting and fishing opportunities dealing a major blow to local economies and the multi-billion outdoor recreation economies supported by our public lands and waters.

 The truth is that hunting and fishing rights are guaranteed by law and policy.

Every national monument that the Trump Administration claims to be opening to hunting and recreational fishing is already open and has always been open to hunting and recreational fishing. 

According to the Congressional Research Service, the proclamations creating the national monuments on public lands explicitly affirm the continued jurisdiction of the state to regulate wildlife, including hunting and fishing, in each of the monuments under review. 

The proclamations establishing Marine National Monuments also explicitly allow recreational fishing, consistent with applicable laws. 

We can only hope that this administration will begin to focus on protecting wildlife habitats, precious and unique ecosystems, and priceless cultural resources so current and future Americans can continue to experience our wild west.

Join us, Friends of the Arizona Joshua Tree Forest, as we celebrate National Public Lands Day at 9 a.m. Oct. 13 in our special place at the Arizona Joshua Tree kiosk to celebrate the grand opening of our nature trail as well as Public Lands Day.

The kiosk is located at the corner of Pierce Ferry and Diamond Bar roads outside of Meadview.

Get outside and celebrate these amazing public lands with a walk, a hike, or a quiet moment in nature.